Those irrepressible minions celebrated a Fourth of July holiday for the record books as “Despicable Me 2″ took the #1 spot this weekend. Meanwhile, a big-budget film with an A-list star was dead on arrival and a standup comedian proved (once again) the smart box office business model of small budget.
The massive opening for “Despicable Me 2″ made the most significant contribution to what became the biggest July Fourth weekend ever for movie theaters. The animated sequel, featuring the voices of Steve Carrell and Kristen Wiig, made $82.5 million from Friday to Sunday and enjoyed a five-day total of more than $142 million. “Despicable Me 2″ now holds the record for biggest five-day haul for an animated movie ever, defeating “Shrek 2,” which was released in May 2004.
Critics were behind “Despicable Me 2,” and audiences assigned it a CinemaScore of “A.”
Universal already had a summer hit on their hands with “Fast & Furious 6″ and the $75 million price tag for “Despicable Me 2″ was money well spent given the fact that it’s already grossed $293.1 million around the world.
Disney, on the other hand, can’t be happy with the extreme underperformance of “The Lone Ranger.” Despite playing in roughly as many locations as “Despicable Me 2″ and reuniting the “Pirates of the Caribbean” team of Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the $215 million movie made just $49.9 million over its first five days. Its three-day weekend total of $29.4 million was less than the $34.4 million “Despicable Me 2″ made on Wednesday alone.
“The Lone Ranger” suffered roughly the same fate of other summer blockbuster wannabes in the Western genre, including Warner Bros.’ comic book adaptation “Jonah Hex,” Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys and Aliens” and Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West.”
The Mouse House lost a similar big-budget wager last summer with “John Carter.” According to a story in The Hollywood Reporter, “Ranger” could lead to a $150 million loss. However, according to EW’s Grady Smith, Disney will continue to stand behind the big-budget event movie model, given the success of “Iron Man 3,” “Monsters University” and “Oz the Great and Powerful.” It’s also important to note that Disney owns Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm (with new “Star Wars” movies on the way).
Last year’s Video Music Awards host helped remind Hollywood about the strength of a small budget combined with audience demand. “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain” made $17.5 from just 876 locations (by comparison, “Despicable Me 2″ and “The Lone Ranger” were each available in almost 4,000 spots) during its first five days in theaters. It was enough to be #8 for the weekend. Hart’s latest standup comedy concert film was produced for about 1 percent the budget of “The Lone Ranger.”
With “Despicable Me 2″ and “The Lone Ranger” occupying the top two spots, that left #3 for “The Heat.” The Melissa McCarthy/Sandra Bullock buddy-cop comedy collected $25 million in its second weekend, for a two week total of $86.7 million. Last weekend’s champ “Monsters University” was #4 with $19.5 million for an overall domestic gross of $216.1 million. “World War Z” rounded out the Top 5, bringing Pitt’s passion project another $18.2 million in tickets for a $158.7 million total.
Overall, the top 12 films made a collective $220.7 million, the 10th best box office weekend of all time. While the top 12 broke records, there’s one piece of data worth noting emblematic of shifting trends: 3-D viewership. The percentage of the “Despicable Me 2″ audience who opted for the pricier format was one of the lowest ever, according to reports.