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Box Office: ‘Secret Life of Pets’ Bites Into $5.3 Million on Thursday Night

Illumination-Universal’s “The Secret Life of Pets” bit into $5.3 million at 3,009 theaters on Thursday night at the U.S. box office.

That’s nearly as much as the $6.2 million Illumination-Universal’s animated blockbuster “Minions” earned in previews last summer on its way to a $115 million opening weekend.

Fox’s R-rated “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” starring Zac Efron, Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza, launched with $1.6 million from 2,560 locations. The figure nearly matched the $1.7 million taken in by Efron’s “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” in May, when it opened with a $21.8 million weekend.

“Pets” is expected to gross at least $70 million this weekend and dethrone Disney-Pixar’s blockbuster “Finding Dory,” which has won three consecutive frames and dominated at multiplexes, grossing $396 million in 20 days.

Universal is opening “Pets” at 4,329 North American theaters on Friday. The film follows animals after their owners leave for work or school each day.

Expectations for the pic have been elevated by the recent strong performance in the animated sector, which has seen solid results from “Dory,” Disney’s “Zootopia,” Sony’s “The Angry Birds Movie” and Fox’s “Kung Fu Panda 3” this year. Critics have shown plenty of affection for “Pets,” helping it earn a 76% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Online ticketing service Fandango reported Friday that “Pets” is generating 70% of its sales.

The “Pets” voice cast includes Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Steve Coogan and Albert Brooks. “Despicable Me” helmer Chris Renaud directs and Yarrow Cheney co-directs from a script by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch. Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri and longtime collaborator Janet Healy produced the movie.

Illumination-Universal saw strong results for their other original animated film, 2010’s “Despicable Me,” which opened with $56.4 million on its way to $251 million domestically and $543 million worldwide.

The Secret Life of Pets” has a relatively modest $75 million price tag. The film will open with a never-before-seen short, “Mower Minions,” Illumination’s first short released theatrically.

“Dory” will probably draw at least $20 million to finish ahead of “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” which is bowing at 2,982 North American locations. Warner Bros.’ second weekend of “The Legend of Tarzan” will also be in the battle for runner-up.

“Mike and Dave,” directed by Jake Szymanski, is expected to take in about $15 million amid mixed reviews with a current 45% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It’s based on real-life brothers Mike and Dave Stangle, who took out a Craigslist ad in 2013 seeking dates for their cousin’s wedding.

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