When “Top Gun: Maverick” hit theaters in May and became the biggest film yet of 2022, it delivered a victory lap for Paramount’s decision to hold the film’s release for two years.
Now it’s Universal turn.
Much like Tom Cruise’s aeronautical return to cinemas, “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” a sequel to Universal animation studio Illumination’s massive 2015 hit, was supposed to release in the summer of 2020 but was delayed a year to 2021 and then again to 2022 amid the pandemic.
The “Minions” sequel will at last bow Friday, effectively capping the era of backed-up 2020 holdouts now that “Death on the Nile,” “Morbius,” “Bob’s Burgers” and “Top Gun: Maverick” have released, though only the latter hit the $100 million mark at the domestic box office.
Luckily for Universal, the new “Minions” film is unlikely to miss that mark.
Per Comscore, “Minions” brought in more than a billion dollars globally for Universal in 2015 after “Jurassic World” hit the same milestone during the same summer, a best for Illumination that effectively made “Minions” the face of its “Despicable Me” franchise, despite being a spinoff.
Seven years later, “Jurassic World Dominion” has already crossed $300 million domestically after its June 10th release, so it’s hard to believe lightning won’t strike twice.
That said, the new “Minions” is projected to earn between $65 million and $75 million throughout the extended July 4th weekend, a step below the more-than $115 million three-day opening “Minions” achieved in 2015.
This may register as a knock on the franchise, but only “Lightyear” has managed to deliver an opening for animated movies that has surpassed $50 million, making it probable that “Minions” will unseat it as the genre’s leader.
Family-driven animated films have had a slow comeback at the box office. While “Lightyear” should hit this mark over the weekend, the only animated film to pass $100 million domestically has been Illumination’s “Sing” sequel, whose December 2021 opening was largely suppressed by “Spider-Man: No Way Home” but still earned its keep throughout the winter season, closing its domestic run at more than $160 million and above $400 million worldwide, per Comscore.
Health-driven hesitance toward bringing kids out to theaters throughout the pandemic is understandable, but the industry-wide shift to streaming has also been a major contributor toward family movie nights becoming a home exercise. Disney itself didn’t feel comfortable releasing any Pixar titles to theaters before “Lightyear,” while Sony has diverted multiple animated titles to Netflix.
Universal hasn’t been exempt from animation animosity, either. The studio released “The Boss Baby: Family Business” in theaters and on NBCUniversal streamer Peacock simultaneously last summer. Given that Universal is still experimenting with streaming releases for its 2022 theatrical slate, “Minions” staying exclusive to theaters is a clear vote of confidence that the film will fill seats just as “Sing 2” and Dreamworks’ “The Bad Guys” did.
While theaters are still waiting for notable 2021 delays like “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which arrives in cinemas this December, Universal’s most mischievous IP is shutting the door on 2020 calendar delays. One can only imagine how thrilled exhibitors are that this is finally the case.