Box Office: ‘Minions’ dominates with $115.2 million debut

13 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Minions’ swarms box office with $115.2M haul.

LOS ANGELES — Minions, which this weekend scored the second biggest opening ever for an animated feature, is just the latest hit from Universal Pictures in a year that has overflowed with breakouts and blockbusters.Minions overran the box office on the weekend as audiences in the US and Canada shelled out an estimated $115.2 million to see the evil-master-serving horde frolic on the big screen.It is the best opening yet for the hugely successful “Despicable Me” franchise, following an ubiquitous marketing effort that blanketed billboards, McDonald’s meals and Amazon.com Inc.

Animated comedy “Minions,” a prequel to the “Despicable Me” movies featuring three tiny, villainous creatures, scored big at the North America box office over the weekend, according to industry estimates Sunday. AMZN 2.10 % packages. “Minions” was followed by summer box-office mainstays “Jurassic World,” which grossed an estimated $18.1 million for a total of $590.7 million, and “Inside Out,” which added $17.1 million to its haul of $283.6 million. The caper, which tells the story of lozenge-shaped, yellow characters whose goal is to serve the most despicable master they can, debuted in the top spot with a haul of $115.2 million, box officer tracker Exhibitor Relations said. “Great marketing, a perfect release date and multiple high-profile product tie-ins made this a guaranteed hit and perhaps one of the most perfectly realized movie spin-offs ever,” analyst Paul Dergarabedian of box office tracker Rentrak said of “Minions.” The premiere of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s “Minions” at the Shrine Auditorium on June 27, 2015 in Los Angeles, California ©Kevin Winter (Getty/AFP/File) “Inside Out” features the voice of comedian Amy Poehler and follows young Riley as her emotions of joy, fear, anger, disgust and sadness battle it out internally as she copes with a move to a new city. “Jurassic World” was unchanged in second place and pulled in another $18.1 million, bringing the dinosaur movie’s overall total to a huge $590.7 million. The Universal and Illumination Entertainment spinoff to “Despicable Me” just missed the domestic record set by “Shrek the Third’s” $121.6 million kickoff in 2007, while continuing animation maestro Chris Meledandri’s hot streak at the multiplexes.

The studio’s remarkable run is in marked contrast to five years ago, when Universal was mired in last place among the six major Hollywood players, weighed down by costly disappointments such as The Green Zone and Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Minions’ opening weekend haul was the second highest animated opening of all time, behind only 2007’s Shrek The Third, which made $121.6million in one weekend. The movie, which recalls 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” for its hand-held camera technique, gives young actors Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos and Cassidy Gifford their first substantial roles.

What makes Meledandri so valuable to studios is that he keeps budgets low. “Minions” cost $74 million to produce, a modest number considering that Pixar and DreamWorks Animation routinely spend north of $100 million on their animated features. “I’m not sure the public is mindful of what films cost; they’re more concerned with how they resonate,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief. “Chris is able to produce films that speak to families, to children, to people everywhere.” The studio left nothing to chance when it came to reminding moviegoers why the loved the nattering, mischievous, highlighter-hued critters. Its hard climb back to the top is a reminder that, just as Nathaniel Hawthorne famously said of American families, studios are always rising and falling in Hollywood. Universal partnered with the likes of Snapchat, McDonald’s, and Amazon to deliver nearly $600 million in publicity and promotions, according to a recent article by Bloomberg. Going into 2015, most analysts believed the big story would be Disney, which finally would see major releases from each of its three Tiffany brands – Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm.

The spin off becomes the fourth film to break the $100million barrier this year, and the third from Universal’s stable, after Jurassic World and Furious 7; Disney had the other with Avengers: Age of Ultron. While Disney has enjoyed its share of successes, Universal is likely to have the bigger year, and could even set a new high-water mark for box office results after becoming the fastest studio to cross US$3 billion in receipts. “We’re only in July and they could say we’re done, we’re good and they’d have had a ridiculous year,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Rentrak. “There has to be a vision, and I think Universal has a vision. Other studios have created successful spinoffs, such as DreamWorks’ “Shrek” side story from 2011, “Puss in Boots.” There are also the multi-layered spinoffs in Disney’s Marvel universe, including “Ant-Man,” which opens next weekend. Products such as Amazon boxes, Chiquita bananas, McDonald’s Happy Meals and even Tic Tacs themselves have all been overrun by the little yellow henchmen, while virtually every single billboard in the greater Los Angeles area has been bought out by the studio.

Sci-fi movie “Self/less” about a dying wealthy man whose consciousness is transferred into the body of a younger man, debuted in eighth place with $5.4 million. The film stars Sandra Bullock, John Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush and Jennifer Saunders, with Steve Carrell reprising his role as a young Gru. A store featuring plush toys prominently displayed the “Despicable Me” characters. “With anything that opens to over $100 million, you breach all demographics,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “The Minions are the stars of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise…kids love them, teens love them, and adults love them.” “Minions” also enjoyed a sprawling rollout, debuting in 4,301 theaters. Universal’s successes show that there are alternatives out there for studios not looking to raid the outer recesses of the graphic novel and comic-book world in the hopes of competing. Ahead of “Minions,” Universal showed a trailer from a release for next summer, “The Secret Life of Pets,” which explores what pets do when their owners leave them at home unattended.

The studio is the leader in market share thanks to hits like “Pitch Perfect 2″ and “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and has two films that have crossed $1 billion at the global box office with “Furious 7″ and “Jurassic World.” “Minions” was such a behemoth that two newcomers, “Self/Less” and “The Gallows,” risked getting washed away. Yes, there are a lot of sequels on Universal’s dance card, with follow-ups to the Fast & Furious, Pitch Perfect and Jurassic Park franchises among its biggest grossers, but these are organically produced, homegrown series. Moreover, Universal has wisely mixed in other types of movies, such as erotic bestseller adaptation Fifty Shades of Grey and rap biopic Straight Outta Compton to augment its tentpole releases.

Entertainment 360 and Blumhouse Productions backed the picture about a high school play gone terribly, terribly wrong…and not in that teenagers putting on “The Crucible” kind of way. Warner Bros. executives say the film is a modestly priced single, but was an important showcase for writers and directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing. “We’re cultivating young filmmakers and giving them a chance to grow and prosper,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution executive vice president. “These are really sharp guys, who have a long career in front of them.” Focus Features’ “Self/Less” was not so fortunate, picking up roughly $5.4 million from 1,953 locations. The science-fiction thriller about a radical medical procedure is the latest film fumble for Ryan Reynolds, who is still laboring to get out from under the massive flops that were “The Green Lantern” and “R.I.P.D.” The good news for the actor is that a trailer for “Deadpool,” his upcoming R-rated comic book adaptation, rocked the Comic-Con crowd.

Ted 2 left audiences cold, and it’s unlikely that Blackhat and Seventh Son, two bombs the studio distributed for its financial partner Legendary, will be featured in any sizzle reels going forward. Overall ticket sales were robust, improving nearly 40% over the year-ago period when “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” kicked off with $72.6 million.

The studio has avoiding clustering all of its major releases in the summer blockbuster season, preferring to drop films like Fifty Shades and Furious 7 in the winter and the spring when competition is less pitched. Universal managed to find the right tone in its black and white posters and promotional materials, promising fans a last ride with a star they loved and making a movie about driving fast with no repercussions – a moving testament to a man who, after all, died in a racing accident. “They’ve taken already strong titles and nurtured them in a way that allowed them to shatter expectations,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst of BoxOffice.com. “Look at what they do on Facebook and Twitter.

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