The ‘Despicable Me’ entry came in notably behind expectations in a surprise twist, while ‘Baby Driver’ is proving a powerful antidote to summer popcorn fare with a $30 million launch; ‘The House’ marks the worst wide opening of Will Ferrell’s career in a leading role.
This year’s fireworks display at the July Fourth holiday box office was decidedly mixed, led by Despicable Me 3 with $72.4 million from 4,529 theaters.
In a surprise twist, the threequel came in notably behind expectations for Universal and Illumination Entertainment. Heading into the weekend, most had expected it to rake in $85 million to $90 million. Sunday estimates showed the movie grossing $75.4 million, but the number was revised downwards on Monday morning when final weekend numbers were calculated.
Gru and his minions are doing more villainous business overseas, where Despicable Me 3 earned $95.6 million from 52 markets for a No. 1 finish and foreign total of $116.9 million (it began rolling out offshore in some territories two weeks ago). The global tally is an estimated $189.2 million.
While Despicable Me 3 didn’t get entirely sunk by sequel fatigue in North America, it proves another cautionary tale for Hollywood, a town fixated with churning out multiple installments in a film franchise. The Fourth of July frame was supposed to help close a year-over-year gap in summer box-office revenue, but it didn’t. According to comScore, summer revenue is currently down by nearly 8 percent. Worse, gains made earlier in the year have eroded so that 2017 revenue is now even with 2016.
Despicable Me 2 likewise opened over the Fourth of July frame in 2013, grossing $83.5 million for the weekend proper and $143.1 million in its five-day debut (that year, the holiday fell on a Thursday, which is more advantageous than a Tuesday). And in summer 2015, spinoff Minions opened to a huge $115.7 million over the July 10-12 weekend.
Universal executives Nick Carpou and Duncan Clark, who head up domestic and international distribution, respectively, said Despicable Me 3 is off to a stellar start everywhere. In the U.S., Carpou said there was tough competition for families distracted by July Fourth weekend plans, but added, “$75 million is nothing to sneeze at.” Also, the movie scored the top opening of the year to date for an animated film.
The third installment follows Gru (Steve Carell) as he meets up with his long-lost twin brother, Dru (also voiced by Carell). Together, they take on a diamond thief (Trey Parker).
In a major win for Sony’s film studio, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver rode to a five-day debut of $29 million-$30 million from 3,226 theaters after opening Wednesday. Sony’s TriStar Pictures, MRC and Working Title partnered on the pic, which is proving to be a powerful antidote to summer popcorn fare.
The critically acclaimed heist thriller stars Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx. Sony puts the budget of the film at $34 million after rebates. Baby Driver drew both young and old; 40 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 25.
“It is great to see a non-IP film breakthrough this summer. It is a shot in the arm for anyone who supports original filmmaking,” said Sony worldwide president of marketing and distribution Josh Greenstein.
This year’s big July Fourth dud is New Line and Village Roadshow’s The House, starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler. The R-rated comedy debuted in sixth place with $8.7 million from 3,134 theaters, the worst wide opening of Ferrell’s career in a leading role. The film, about an everyday couple who open an underground gambling establishment when their daughter can’t get a college scholarship, wasn’t screened in advance for critics and is the latest in a string of midrange R-rated comedies that have bombed in the past two years, including this summer’s femme-centric Rough Night.
“I’m so disappointed, and especially for the actors. The movie just didn’t connect with a broad audience. Clearly, there is a trend of these kinds of comedies not working,” said Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., New Line’s parent studio.
Warners wasn’t entirely banished from the July Fourth picnic, however. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman flew past the $700 million mark at the global box office in its fifth weekend and is now the top-grossing movie helmed by a woman who had sole directing duties. “The film’s hold is simply exceptional,” said Goldstein.
Wonder Woman placed No. 4 behind Transformers: The Last Knight, which fell 62 percent in its second weekend to $17 million for a creaky domestic total of $102.1 million. The Last Knight, a victim of sequel fatigue in North America, is earning far better internationally, where it grossed another $68 million from 44 markets over the weekend for a foreign total of $327.8 million and a worldwide cume of $429.9 million — including $193.5 million in China.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is in the same boat. The Disney tentpole has sailed past the $700 million mark worldwide thanks a foreign treasure trove of $543.2 million, compared to a franchise-low $165.5 million in the U.S.
Disney and Pixar’s Cars 3 rounded out the top five in North America, plunging 60 percent in its third weekend to $9.5 million for a total $120.7 million (yes, it is also suffering from sequelitis domestically). The threequel has earned an early $53.1 million offshore for a global tally of $173.8 million.
Several prestige players continued to make gains. Focus Features’ The Beguiled from director Sofia Coppola moved into the top 10 to rest at No. 8, earning $3.3 million as it expanded into a total of 674 theaters in its sophomore outing.
Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick, which placed No. 12, dazzled with $1.7 million from 72 theaters in its second weekend for a screen average of $23,550 and a domestic total of $2.2 million for Amazon Studios and Lionsgate.
July 3, 7:30 a.m. Updated with revised weekend numbers.