Box Office: ‘Minions’ Dominates With $115.2 Million Debut

Minions Movie
Courtesy of Universal

Minions” ruled the weekend box office, racking up a massive $115.2 million in North America, for the second biggest animated film opening in history.

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. 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 they loved the nattering, mischievous, highlighter-hued critters. 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. The titular characters were ubiquitous, popping up on everything from Twinkies to Chiquita bananas.

Carpou said he was made aware of the Minions’ cultural currency this weekend while on an outing to a mall. A store featuring plush toys prominently displayed the “Despicable Me” characters.

“They’re everywhere, those yellow guys,” he said. “In a way they exist in the culture without even having a film attached to them.”

The opening weekend crowd for “Minions” was 59% female, 55% under the age of 25, and 60% made up of families.

“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. In recent months, there’s been a lot of celebrating taking place on the Universal lot. 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. Of them, “The Gallows” fared better, picking up $10 million, across 2,720 locations. The Warner Bros. found footage chiller cost less than $2 million to make, so it could be profitable. 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. Box office redemption may be nigh.

“Self/Less” was produced for $26 million, but the blow is softened in part by foreign pre-sales that limited Focus’ and co-backer Endgame’s financial exposure.

“Minions” also took a chunk out of some of the turbo-charged blockbusters still kicking around cinemas. “Jurassic World” slid 54% to $18.1 million, bringing its Stateside haul to $590.6 million, while “Inside Out” dipped 43% to $17.1 million, pushing its domestic total to $283.6 million.

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.

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  1. Adam says:

    The fact that “Minions” cost a very modest 74 million should have ALL major studios seriously looking at reorganizing their business models.

  2. macd says:

    Why am I not impressed by the huge weekend grosses this (and the past few) summer “blockbusters” are wracking up? Simple. By mutual consent, the major studios are divvying up the weekends so that each of the studio’s costliest movies have at least one weekend exclusively to themselves with zero competition. So, of course, a biggie like “Jurassic World” or “Minions” is going to clean up by monopolizing several thousand screens. For starving moviegoers who haven’t yet lost the moviegoing habit, each new weekend brings only one viable choice. All of these record-breaking grosses don’t mean that movies are better than ever (in fact, and I wholeheartedly agree with Dustin Hoffman, they’re worse than ever). Rotten Tomatoes and a film’s CinemaScore mean nothing. And when a movie’s P&A costs are often equal to or even more than the film’s actual production budget (“Magic Mike XXL”, for example), and the studio’s cut of overseas grosses is relatively meager, something rotten is indeed wrong with Hollywood. Aside from the relatively few, modestly-budgeted independent films that break out each year (and claim the years-end awards), the handwriting is on the wall. Perhaps most damaging is the fact that there are no longer any bona fide movie “stars”. Recent boxoffice flops have de-throned the once-supposedly-invincible Robert Downey and Johnny Depp. Arnold S and Nic C are now boxoffice poison. Three years ago Channing Tatum was anointed by the media as the new Great White Hope. A few flops have since demoted him, and now it’s Chris Pratt who has been christened Mr. Boffo Boxoffice (merely because he had the dumb luck to play the lead in this and last year’s biggest moneymakers). Next up for Pratt is teaming with his female counterpart, the admittedly talented Jennifer Lawrence, in a romantic comedy. But what if this dream-team has zero chemistry and the film falters? I’ll leave it to the Experts to answer the questions I’ve raised. Meanwhile I’ll stick to cable-TV. The best movie I saw last year was “The Normal Heart”, an HBO production unencumbered by phony-looking CGI and 3-D that proved Matt Bomer and (a welcome surprise!) Julia Roberts can really act!!!

    • Adam says:

      You make some valid observations but the Hollywood studio machine is first and foremost a business and thus it will concentrate on making films that they believe will bring in the most revenue. Artsy/Independent films will always be around but you just won’t be seeing them in a movie theatre unless you are lucky enough to live near one of those mom&pop owned independent theatres.

  3. fangirl says:

    The trailer for this is adorable! They also make me wonder if I’m mentally two years old. I love them so much haha :):):) Cutest little voices ever!

  4. Daddio says:

    Variety, come on! Minions did not take chunks out of some of the “turbo charged blockbusters” like Jurassic 4 or Inside/Out. First per your own numbers ,Jurassic 4 fell 38% not 54% your math is off. That’s is a very good hold for a movie in its 5th week. Inside/Out’s 41% drop is not a “chunk”. Those are good holds for movies going against a 115 mil opener. They both have legs and staying power. Variety , you are the ” Bible” of the entertainment industry. What happened?

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