Illumination Entertainment/Universal’s The Secret Life Of Pets is headed to the No. 1 spot next weekend at the nation’s box office with tracking showing a higher gross than what conventional wisdom is thinking. While tracking has the new animated family film opening around $80 million-$90 million, we’re thinking that Disney’s Finding Dory could swim away with anywhere between $25M-$30M next weekend to nip at Pets’ heels. With that in mind, an opening around $70M-$80M for this non-sequel romp is not out of the question.
Regardless, it will be yet another No. 1 opening for Illumination.
The original, high-concept film Secret Life Of Pets in 3D will open in previews Thursday at 6 PM. One of the picture’s comps, Disney’s Zootopia (also original fare), opened to $75M in March of this year before it became a billion-dollar baby. Illumination/Uni’s family film is opening in the heart of the summer when kids are out of school.
Pets is on its way to open above Illumination pic Despicable Me‘s $56.39M which also opened in July — albeit 2010. In that year Toy Story 3 was also in its fourth weekend of release and dropped about 31%. With the same percentage drop, that would put Finding Dory at around $28M next weekend.
To help ensure a big opening for Pets, NBCUniversal has really opened the doors on cross-promotions and have been promoting the film for a year in another great marketing campaign from the studio.
Universal launched with the Pets trailer ahead of Minions last year and this film received more trailer targets than any film in the studio’s history. Given that it’s not a sequel, this is one of the biggest original animated IP launches in recent memory. Think Zootopia. Xfiniti, Comcast’s major broadband provider, has been doing a big promotion and the film enjoyed spots during the Super Bowl and the NBA playoffs. In fact, a special short starring the NBA’s Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant aired in 18 games throughout the first round of the NBA postseason in early April.
Chrysler is doing a promotion as well. But they also targeted pet owners through customized marketing materials in-store at Petsmart and via National Pet Day and on Facebook. They even created the PetMoji app so pet owners can turn their own pets into cartoon characters.
Pets has already opened overseas, but in only six markets. As a precursor of what we expect to come across international, it had No. 1 openings in all of them. The early international total through Monday is $30.9M so far with 60 more territories to open. The comp for this one is Zootopia. The Olympics don’t come into play (its in Rio this year) until August 5 and run through August 21. The family film has been No. 1 in the UK/Ireland for two weeks running so far and has already passed Kung Fu Panda 3 there to become the second-biggest animated film opening (behind Finding Dory, of course) so far.
The other new offering this coming weekend will be Fox’s Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates — a comedy starring Zac Efron, Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza. That could open around $15M, give or take $2M. The new film will have previews at 7 PM on Thursday. Efron’s average weekend gross is $25.3M (helped by bigger opening such as the original Neighbors).
This film is, of course, counter-programming targeted to the millennials. The R-rated film will find its core audiences late night and this audience has been very underserved this summer so far.