6:37 AM, 7:06 AM and 7:45 AM: Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s Minions is off to a phenomenal start at the box office with a preview gross of $6.2M. It’s already breaking records as it marks the biggest late night result for an animated film. It opened at 6 PM last night in 2,985 theaters, so it’s really a full half day of movie going. In comparison, Despicable Me 2, which debuted at 7 PM in previews in 2013 took $4.7M and went onto gross $83.5M. The little critters bow tonight in what is expected to be in 4,301 theaters and there is no question it will pull in well over $100M, stripping away audiences from its nearest competitor, Disney/Pixars’ Inside Out which has been No. 1 the entire week right above Universal’s other powerhouse Jurassic World.

635582514234847192-SCARLETT2-600x422It may end up the highest animated opener of all time. That record currently is held by 2007’s Shrek The Third which grabbed $121.6M in fewer theaters (4,122), followed by 2010’s Toy Story 3 ($110.3M in 4,028 theaters) and Shrek 2 ($108M). Because earlier showtimes for Thursday night previews only started three years ago after the Aurora theater shooting massacre, no comparisons exist for the older animated titles.

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Will be watching matinees today to see how it does comparatively against those titles and by Friday night we should have a better idea of how high this one is headed. Shrek the Third had a Friday gross of $38.4M and Toy Story 3 ended up with a $41.1M Friday.

In terms of social media, Minions is soaring with a Facebook reach of 116M, a Twitter reach of 26M and YouTube views at 646M. RelishMix’s Marc Karzen noted, “Keep in mind that fans are extremely connect to this franchise with strong view counts on over 500 videos from installments 1 and 2 which continue to deliver impression.” The top Minions trailer for the current release has 27M views and very strong daily activity.

Not much activity for the other two titles, although RelisMix notes that the slash in Focus Features’ Self/Less title was a bad idea for social media. So, filmmakers take/note.

GallowsMeanwhile, the horror film The Gallows ended up with a $900K haul for Warner Bros., which is releasing this one. The comps for this horror film would be probably Deliver Us From Evil which Sony released in July of last year and ended up grossing $9.7M or The Orphan which was also distributed by Warner Bros. and grabbed $12.8M in 2009. We expect anywhere between $10M and $12M for this one for the three-day. The horror crowd usually comes out on Friday night so expect this one to have a nice night.

selfless_ver4The other film in the marketplace is Gramercy Pictures’ sci-fi drama Self/Less which grabbed $325K in late nights starting at 7 PM for Focus Features. It was in 1,600 theaters. For the comps, the industry was looking at Transcendence which took in $850K when it was previewed at 8 PM in April of last year and had a three-day gross of $10.8M. It’s way off of that. Self/Less, which stars Ryan Reynolds and Sir Ben Kingsley, is expected to make under $10M for the weekend.

NOTEWORTHY: the Melissa McCarthy comedy Spy hit the $100M milestone last night for Fox.