UPDATED: “Minions: The Rise of Gru” set off fireworks at the box office, collecting $107 million from 4,391 North American theaters over the weekend. By the time July 4th rolled around on Monday, the animated family film reached a sizable $125.1 million.
With those returns, “The Rise of Gru” smashed the record for the highest film opening over Independence Day, overtaking Paramount’s 2011 blockbuster “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” ($115.9 million over the extended holiday weekend).
Ticket sales for the fifth installment in Universal and Illumination’s popular “Despicable Me” franchise are a comforting sign that family crowds haven’t entirely forgotten about movie theaters. After Disney’s Pixar film “Lightyear” fell short of expectations, Hollywood had been looking at “Minions: The Rise of Gru” to test the viability of animated flicks on the big screen. That’s because moviegoers with young kids — a demographic that’s vital in driving overall box office revenues — had returned only in fits and starts during the pandemic.
Impressively, “Rise of Gru” almost matched its predecessor, 2015’s Minions” ($115 million over three days), in terms of opening weekend returns.
“This is a sensational opening,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “Family animation, more than any other genre, has struggled to find its footing during the pandemic. This weekend, ‘Minions’ is breaking through and big animation is back in business.”
Overall, Fourth of July ticket sales are another encouraging sign that moviegoing is slowly but surely rebounding from COVID-19. In 2021, overall revenues around Independence Day tallied just $69 million as 20% of theaters were closed. Historically, the holiday that celebrates all things America can bring in between $150 million and $200 million at the box office, according to Comscore. This year, ticket sales are expected to fall between $190 million and $200 million from Friday and Sunday and look to hit $250 million by Monday.
It’s promising that several movies have been able to triumph at one time. For a while, pandemic-era releases like”Spider-Man: No Way Home,” F9: The Fast Saga” and “No Time to Die” dominated the moviegoing landscape while leaving scraps for everyone else. But as audiences of all ages return to the big screen, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” was able to succeed alongside Tom Cruise’s action sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” and Universal’s dino brouhaha “Jurassic World Dominion.” With the boost in attendance, domestic revenue in June 2022 surpassed $985 million, according to Comscore, marking the biggest box office month of the pandemic. It’s a huge jump from summer 2021, in which the month of June brought back $409 million. However it still trails pre-pandemic times, when June revenues regularly surpassed $1 billion.
Illumination veteran Kyle Balda directed “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” which takes place in the 1970s as a young Gru (the baddie-turned-daddy from “Despicable Me,” voiced by Steve Carell) tries to test the waters of supervillain life. Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Julie Andrews round out the voice cast. Film critics were mixed on “Minions 2,” which holds a 68% on Rotten Tomatoes, though reviews rarely matter for kids’ movies. Audiences awarded the film an “A” CinemaScore.
“‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ is a joyous film,” says Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “Illumination and [its CEO] Chris Meledandri have done an amazing job with this franchise. And Steve Carell as Gru… it doesn’t get any better than that.”
For the “Minions” sequel, overseas appeal is key to turning a profit because Gru’s highlighter-colored henchmen are especially popular outside of the U.S. International ticket sales accounted for 71% of overall ticket sales for the first “Minions” spinoff. Already, the follow-up film has amassed $93.7 million, bringing its global tally to $202.2 million.
This weekend’s other new release, Bleecker Street’s romantic comedy “Mr. Malcolm’s List,” collapsed in its debut, grossing a paltry $826,000 from 1,384 theaters. By Monday, the film passed the $1 million mark — a bleak benchmark for a movie that’s playing nationwide. Emma Holly Jones directed the regency era film, starring Zawe Ashton (“Velvet Buzzsaw”), Sope Dirisu (“Gangs of London”) and Freida Pinto.
In second place, “Top Gun: Maverick” dropped a scant 13% to bring in $25.8 million from 3,843 theaters in its sixth weekend of release. Through the holiday on Monday, ticket sales reached $33 million. Paramount’s patriotic sequel has generated $571.4 million to date and stands as the highest-grossing movie of the year in North America. Internationally, “Top Gun: Maverick” has collected $544.5 million for a global tally of $1.11 billion.
Last weekend’s champion “Elvis” slid to the No. 3 spot, collecting $18.4 million from 3,932 venues over the weekend and $23.5 million through Monday. So far, the Warner Bros. musical biopic has accumulated $71.8 million in North America. “Elvis,” which stars Austin Butler as the king of rock and roll, hit $113 million globally over the weekend, including $34 million overseas.
Universal also took slots four and five, “Jurassic World Dominion” and “The Black Phone,” giving the studio a rare three spots in the top five.
The sixth chapter in the “Jurassic” franchise took in $16 million over the weekend and brought that number to $19.7 million by Monday. After four weeks on the big screen, “Dominion” has amassed $335.3 million at the domestic box office and $824.5 million worldwide.
Blumhouse’s thriller “The Black Phone” collected $12.2 million from 3,156 theaters over the weekend and should end Monday with $14.4 million. Since its debut last weekend, “The Black Phone” has grossed $49.7 million in North America and $74.4 million globally.
In sixth place, “Lightyear” declined a sizable 65%, bringing in just $6.3 million from 3,800 theaters over the weekend. The film finished Monday with $7.8 million. “Lightyear” crossed the $100 million mark in its third weekend in theaters, which is a threshold that most Pixar releases reach in the first few days of release. Based on three-day estimates, “Lightyear” has generated $106.6 million in North America and $187 million globally.
Elsewhere, A24 continues to bring “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” to additional movie theaters. The feel-good animated film grossed $307,739 from 22 screens, translating to an impressive $13,988 per location. After two weekends in limited release, “Marcel the Shell” has earned $530,751. The charming story about a plucky shell (voiced by Jenny Slate) will expand into additional markets in the coming weeks.
(Updated on July 4th to include Monday’s numbers.)