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‘Despicable Me 3’ Schemes Up $4.1 Million at Thursday Previews

Family comedy opens Friday on an industry-record 4,529 screens

Universal/Illumination’s “Despicable Me 3” has begun its plan for box office conquest, grossing $4.1 million from 4,020 screens at its Thursday night previews.  By comparison, “Cars 3” made $2.8 million from previews two weeks ago, though animated films typically get lower preview numbers than their live-action counterparts and rely on matinee screenings for the majority of its revenue.

Comparison to this threequel’s predecessor, “Despicable Me 2,” isn’t apples to apples, as that film got a Wednesday opening to capitalize on the July 4 holiday, which fell on a Thursday in 2013. “DM2” made a five-day opening of $143 million, with $83 million from weekend audiences. The first “Despicable Me” opened to a $56.3 million bow in 2010, while the franchise’s spinoff, “Minions,” made $115 million in its three-day opening, a studio record for Illumination.

Now, “Despicable Me 3” is projected by independent trackers to score $90-100 million from 4,529 screens, an industry record for widest opening. Universal is projecting a $85 million opening, which would still give this film the highest opening weekend of all 2017 animated films.

“Despicable Me 3” stars Steve Carell as series protagonist Gru, who, after losing his position in the Anti-Villain League for failing to capture Hollywood star turned villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), is tempted to return to villainy by his long-lost brother Dru (also voiced by Carell). Kristen Wiig, Jenny Slate, Miranda Cosgrove, and Russell Brand also star. Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda directed the film from a script by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. Janet Healy and Chris Meledandri are producers.

Elsewhere, TriStar/MRC’s “Baby Driver” will enter the weekend with a two-day total of $9 million after its Wednesday release. Directed and written by Edgar Wright, the film is projected for a five-day total of $15-20 million against a $34 million budget.

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“Baby Driver” stars Ansel Elgort as the titular getaway car driver who listens to music while driving bank thieves from the cops to drown out his tinnitus. After meeting a beautiful waitress named Debora (Lily James), he yearns to escape his life of crime, but his boss (Kevin Spacey) won’t let him go without a fight. Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Eliza Gonzalez also star. Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Nira Park producers.

Finally, New Line/Village Roadshow’s “The House” made $800,000 from Thursday previews, with projections estimating a $12 million opening. The film stars Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as a couple who start an illegal casino to make back the money they lost when they blew their daughter’s college fund. Andrew Jay Cohen directed the film and co-wrote it with Brendan O’Brien. O’Brien is producing with Ferrell and Adam McKay.