The success of ”Sonic 2“ wasn’t a fluke, while Pixar’s ”Lightyear“ crashed all on its own
Universal/Illumination’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” has marked another milestone in the box office recovery process, breaking a decade-old July 4th holiday-weekend box office record and becoming the 11th animated film in box office history and the first since “Frozen II” to earn an opening weekend of over $100 million.
The “Minions” sequel tallied $125 million over the four-day holiday weekend, cementing the idea that family audiences feel comfortable returning the theaters in large numbers after a long pandemic-fueled lull.
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The $400 million global run of Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” this past spring was the first sign that family films were making a comeback, but the struggles of Disney/Pixar’s “Lightyear” last month created some doubt in Hollywood over whether the video game adaptation’s success was a fluke. Those doubts can be put to rest.
“As consumer concerns over COVID are easing and studios are releasing movies that go beyond the core 18 to 24-year-old males that fueled much of the box office revenue in 2020 and 2021, 2022 has seen a slow but arguably seismic shift back toward the classic ‘four quadrant’ marketplace,” Comscore’s Paul Dergarabedian said.
“We can now add animated films to the list of genres that can indeed find favor with a massive number of moviegoers around the world, and this is great news for studios and exhibitors who can now count on yet another genre to deliver audiences to theaters,” he added. Here are some other takeaways from this weekend:
1. July is going to be as big for theaters as June — if not bigger
The $968 million overall domestic total for the month of June was the highest monthly total seen at the box office since theaters reopened — and the biggest since December 2019. After the strong start for “Minions 2” and with Disney/Marvel’s “Thor: Love & Thunder” due this Friday, there’s every sign that the box office will continue to be strong.
Over the four-day weekend, industry estimates are projecting an overall total of $233 million, up 12% from the $207 million weekend posted from July 5-8 in pre-pandemic 2019. Next weekend, “Thor: Love & Thunder” is targeting an opening weekend of at least $170 million, though rival distributors tell TheWrap they believe the Marvel movie can go much higher.
The second half of the month won’t have nearly as many tentpoles, but Jordan Peele’s horror film “Nope” and Warner Bros.’ animated film “DC League of Super-Pets” should provide smaller boosts as the success of “Black Phone” and “Minions 2” have shown that there is an appetite for horror and animated films, not to mention that both films have built-in audiences thanks to the popularity of the “Get Out” filmmaker and the DC Comics brand building.
2. “Minions 2” should have long legs
Even with the stiff competition ahead, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” is well-placed for a strong month with overwhelming audience popularity that should bring moviegoers in even as other animated films arrive in theaters.
Even though it has been five years since “Despicable Me 3” showed up in theaters, moviegoers are still as enthralled with the franchise as ever: “Minions 2” earned an A on CinemaScore, with demographics showing a 50/50 split between families and general audiences. That’s great news even as “Thor: Love & Thunder” looks to peel off general audiences. If “Minions 2” shows the kind of holds that June’s blockbusters earned, we may see a second weekend well above the $49.2 million that the first “Minions” earned in 2015 after a $115 million opening.
And while Paramount will release its own animated film on July 15 with “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank,” that film won’t have nearly the draw of “Minions,” which over the past decade has become the most successful non-Disney animated franchise in Hollywood. This film significantly raised the bar for post-shutdown animated titles, and now we will see if it can surge past the $336 million domestic run that the first “Minions” earned.
3. “Lightyear” failed on its own merit
The success of “Minions 2” adds more context to the flop of “Lightyear,” a rare bust for Disney/Pixar comparable to the “Star Wars” spinoff “Solo” in terms of how short it fell of what such popular franchises are expected to earn at the box office.
Despite touting the name of one of Pixar’s most famous characters, Lightyear has yet to even make back its $200 million production budget — grossing a mere $105 million domestically and $187.6 million worldwide after three weekends in theaters. How bad is that? “Minions: The Rise of Gru” has already exceeded that global run with a worldwide opening with $195.7 million grossed through Sunday.
The name “Lightyear” wasn’t enough to appeal to filmmakers, and many faulted Disney for a marketing campaign that did little to explain why the Buzz Lightyear astronaut from “Toy Story” was getting his own film — and now voiced by Chris Evans instead of Tim Allen. While the mildly positive reviews were comparable to what “Minions 2” earned, families and “Despicable Me” fans knew they were going to get: the goofy adventures of the little yellow worker creatures.
It’s possible that the studio’s streaming-first release of popular, original Pixar films like “Luca” and “Turning Red” over the past year may have gotten some moviegoers in the habit of waiting for them to come out on Disney+ — which has exponentially more paid subscribers than Universal’s streaming service Peacock. But for the most part, this film’s flop can be placed alongside Warner Bros.’ “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” as an example of a studio pushing a franchise too far from what made it a hit in the first place. (Disney still plans a theatrical release for two upcoming original animated films: “Strange World” this November and the Pixar release “Elemental” next summer.)
Box Office Reporter • email@example.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster