Weekend Box Office: DESPICABLE ME 2 Leads July Fourth Frame; THE LONE RANGER Misfires

     July 7, 2013


With both May and June setting new monthly records in 2013, July got off to a great start thanks to Despicable Me 2. The animated sequel earned an estimated $82.5 million from 3,957 locations this weekend – making it one of the highest Independence Day debuts of all time. The holiday was not as kind to The Lone Ranger. The Disney feature earned an estimated $29.4 million from 3,904 venues this weekend and just $48.9 million since opening on Wednesday – a disappointing number from any angle.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Despicable Me 2 $82,500,000 $142.1
2.  The Lone Ranger $29,430,000 $48.9
3.  The Heat $25,000,000 $86.3
4.  Monsters University $19,590,000 $216.1
5.  World War Z $18,200,000 $158.7
6.  White House Down $13,500,000 $50.4
7.  Man of Steel $11,415,000 $271.2
8.  Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain $10,100,000 $17.4
9.  This Is The End $5,800,000 $85.5
10.  Now You See Me $2,770,000 $110.4

despicable-me-2-posterBefore we discuss the Lone Ranger debacle, we need to give Despicable Me 2 its due. The animated sequel now ranks as the third highest debut ever for the July Fourth weekend, behind Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($97.8 million) and Spider-Man 2 ($88.1 million). Despicable Me 2 can also claim one of the top five animated debuts of all time, placing fourth just ahead of last month’s Monsters University.

Of course, the success of Despicable Me 2 caught no one off guard. Back in July of 2010, the first Despicable Me was a surprise hit for Universal and Illumination Entertainment: opening in first place with $56.4 million. Though not in the same league as animated powerhouses like Pixar or the Shrek series, that opening was huge for an original film. Over the next few weeks, Gru and the minions leveraged audience good will into a final US tally of $251.5 million and over $540 million worldwide. And a new franchise was born.

Three years later, Despicable Me 2 was expected to become one of 2013’s biggest summer hits. That prediction became reality when the sequel began its international roll-out two weeks ago. Going head to head with Monsters University in many territories, the minions came out on top again and again. As of this morning, Despicable Me 2 has already taken in over $150 overseas, giving it a worldwide total close to $300 million. And here in the US, the sequel will have the family market essentially to itself until Smurfs 2 arrives at the end of July, which should insure that Despicable Me 2 becomes as big as everyone expected.

lone-ranger-posterLong term expectations were also borne out by the debut of The Lone Ranger… without the happy results. The Disney western was long expected to fail but, up until the its Wednesday premiere, there was still a glimmer of hope that “the team that brought you Pirates of the Caribbean” would pull off a miracle. No such luck. Instead of revitalizing the big budget western The Lone Ranger will become the genre’s latest cautionary tale – in the mode of infamous summer flops like 1999’s Wild Wild West.

In terms of box office openings, The Lone Ranger did not need a big number to secure a more favorable headline. Early projections were in the $35 million range – about what Cowboys & Aliens managed in the summer of 2011. In March of that same year, Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski had a $38 million debut with the animated western Rango; but the latter also scored 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. With just 11% from RT’s Top Critics, The Lone Ranger was dead on arrival.

Typically, this would be the point where I would mention that, in spite of its sub-par domestic opening, a given movie could still be saved by a big international turnout. In the case of The Lone Ranger, however, that seems like a long-shot. Considering today’s disappointing estimate, The Lone Ranger will have trouble reaching $100 million here in the US. That would mean that international audiences would have to contribute over $300 million just for the production to break even.  I can’t imagine a western being that popular but, I’ve been wrong before.

Even with The Lone Ranger’s shame, this year’s box office set a new record for the July Fourth holiday with over $225 million in overall grosses. Along with the dominance of Despicable Me 2, the weekend saw big assists from The Heat (down just 36% in its sophomore frame) and the limited release Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain. Launched in just 876 locations on Wednesday, the comedian earned an estimated $17.4 million in five days – more than double what he saw from the entire run of 2011’s Laugh At My Pain.

Next weekend brings good news for Guillermo del Toro fans in the form of Pacific Rim. Early projections for the film are in the $35-$40 million range – just under what Adam Sandler and the cast of Grown Ups 2 are expecting from their debut. In the summer of 2010, the first Grown Ups was a surprise hit but, unlike Despicable Me 2, there is no guarantee that this sequel will surpass its progenitor. Here’s hoping Pacific Rim is this summer’s surprise…


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