After its setback with The Mummy earlier this month, Universal will get the studio and the overall domestic box office back on track this weekend with Despicable Me 3, the latest in its beloved Illumination Entertainment franchise, which opens at 4,529 venues in the U.S. and Canada.
Unlike last week, when it was Transformers: The Last Knight all day, all the time, two R-rated movies are counter-programming DM3 this weekend: Sony-TriStar/Media Rights Capital’s Baby Driver from director Edgar Wright at 3,150 theaters, and New Line/Village Roadshow/Warner Bros’ Will Ferrell-Amy Poehler comedy The House at 3,000.
While July 4 itself is generally not the biggest moviegoing day for a title given everyone’s barbecue, beach and firework activities (especially when it falls in the middle of the week), all new releases will receive the breathing room of two extra days at the B.O.; Monday July 3’s tally typically would be larger than July 4’s ticket sales.
To date through two sequels and a Minions spinoff, the Despicable Me franchise has amassed $2.69 billion, which includes the recent $20M made by DM3 in its initial foreign launch in six territories. It will be interesting to see whether the threequel takes the DM series beyond Shrek‘s global box office, which counts $3.5B through four titles and Puss In Boots.
Given how funky the summer box office has been, Uni feels the opening is close to $85 million, which is slightly higher than the three-day take of DM2 ‘s $83.5M (5-day was $143M). Others feel the weekend for the threequel is much higher at $95M-plus given its great reviews and the fact this movie always plays to all demos — particularly with moviegoing, decision-making parents — thanks to its zany sense of humor and groovy Pharrell Williams soundtrack. DM2 was nominated for two Oscars — Pharrell’s original song “Happy” and Best Animated Feature. Previews start Thursday at 6 PM.
In DM3, the Steve Carell-voiced Gru meets his long lost, rich twin brother Dru (also voiced by Carell) who yearns to be in the family villain business. Meanwhile, they’re chasing down another mad man, an ’80s child star-turned-diamond thief Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). Lucy (Kristen Wiig), Gru’s new spy wife from the last film, is along for the ride with his three adopted daughters.
These Illumination animated features are always made at a responsible cost next to other big studio family toons and are built to profit. Disney/Pixar’s Cars 3 cost between $150M-$200M before P&A, while DM3 carries a reported production cost under $80M, in line with Illumination’s Minions and Sing. Like previous DM films, DM3 is a big tentpole for Uni, propped by a huge campaign and a great merchandising line. The first trailer for the movie was released in December and racked up 260M views. DM3 had its first public showing at the esteemed Annecy International Festival of Animation in France, where Illumination’s studio is based, followed by a standing-room-only VidCon screening in Anaheim, and the world premiere at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles last Saturday.
Meanwhile, Transformers: The Last Knight will decline at least 60% in its second weekend, maybe more, to $17.8M. The previous sequel, Age Of Extinction, fell 63% in its second weekend with $37M. Through six days, Last Knight counts $73.1M at the domestic B.O.
Amid the sea of beaten live-action franchises at the box office, Sony/Tri-Star has an original action heist movie with Baby Driver starring Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal and Eiza Gonzalez. The movie, fueled and nuanced by a killer soundtrack (the whole movie was written around it), has been generating heat ever since its premiere at SXSW, where it generated an immediate 100% Rotten Tomatoes score (now at 99%). The pic after rebates and before P&A carries a production cost of $34M. Sony sees low-teens over five days, others believe $20M is closer, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Baby Driver overperform given the critical and advance-screening love. Advance tickets sales on Fandango are pacing ahead of the first John Wick (which made $17.3M in its first five days). Exhibitors are also fans of the film. Working Title Films is also a producer here.
Lastly, The House is currently tracking quite low compared to Ferrell’s previous comedies, Daddy’s Home ($38.7M) and Get Hard ($33.8M), with a three-day in the mid-teens, though Warner Bros thinks the debut is closer to $12M. Pic follows a suburban married couple who, in effort to raise college funds for their daughter, take part in an underground neighborhood casino. Previews start Thursday at 7 PM.
Last time WB had Get Hard, which overperformed opening-weekend projections by close to $3M and ended its stateside run at $90.4M, and $111.8M globally off an estimated $40M production cost. Perhaps House beats its projections. Reviews haven’t registered yet, but Get Hard was able to get to its figures on a 29% Rotten Tomatoes rating. New Line committed to make House for a low-$40M after winning Brendan O’Brien and Andrew J. Cohen’s script in a heated auction two years ago. They’re the writing team behind Neighbors, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates.