“The Secret Life of Pets” looks to dominate the U.S. box office with a $95 million opening weekend, early estimates showed Friday.
“The Secret Life of Pets,” from Illumination/Universal, is heading for a $35 million to $38 million opening day at 4,329 North American theaters. “Pets” could earn up to $99 million by Sunday.
Animated films will take the first two slots as Disney/Pixar’s fourth weekend of “Finding Dory” eyes a second-place finish with about $18 million, lifting its total to about $415 million by the end of the weekend.
Fox’s launch of Zac Efron’s “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” looks likely to finish third with about $16 million at 2,982 locations following an opening day of about $6 million. That should edge Warner Bros.’ second weekend of “The Legend of Tarzan” at about $15 million, with the second weekend of Disney’s “The BFG” and Universal/Blumhouse’s “The Purge: Election Year” battling for fifth with about $10 million each.
Should the estimate hold, “Pets” will post the sixth-best opening of 2016 following “Captain America: Civil War,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Finding Dory,” “Deadpool” and “The Jungle Book.”
“Pets” was expected to hit at least $70 million this weekend. It bit into $5.3 million at 3,009 theaters on Thursday night previews — 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.
“Pets,” which follows animals after their owners leave for work or school each day, is another strong performer 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.
“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” starring Efron, Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza, launched with $1.6 million in previews — nearly matching the $1.7 million taken in by Efron’s “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” in May, when it opened with a $21.8 million weekend.
“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.
The solid launch by “Pets” will help the overall box office continue to recover from its summer slump. As of Thursday, the year-to-date total led the 2015 figure by 1% at $5.88 billion, according to comScore.
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, noted in a PostTrak survey that 37% of moviegoers for “The Secret Life of Pets” described themselves as pet owners.
“A great title, a truly irresistible concept and millions of pet lovers around the world who will be finding out what their pets are doing while they are at the movie theater has set ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ up for a fantastic showing in theaters this weekend,” he added. “Non-sequel animation has had a good year (just look at ‘Zootopia’) and ‘Pets’ will add to that success by drawing audiences with a great marketing campaign and a perfect release date that has allowed for another animal oriented movie ‘Finding Dory’ to get almost a month of playing time on the books.”