“Minions” chattered its way to $46 million on Friday from 4,301 screens, on track for an impressive debut weekend north of $120 million for Universal and Illumination Entertainment.
The box office performance for little yellow guys is well ahead of analyst projections, which had set the target closer to $100 million.
Friday’s performance also puts “Minions,” the third film in the “Despicable Me” franchise, on track to threaten the reign of “Shrek the Third” as the biggest animated movie opening of all time. That threequel grossed $121.6 million over its opening weekend back in 2007.
Of course, “Shrek the Third” broke the record on fewer screens and without the benefit of Thursday night previews. “Minions” proved plenty of people wanted to have an early viewing of the film, raking in $6.2 million at 2,985 U.S. locations.
The Friday returns for “Minions” also outshone comparable animated hits. “Inside Out” made $34.2 million from 3,946 theaters on its first Friday. And “Despicable Me 2” grossed $30 million on Friday night in 2013, proving that the “Minions” on their own are much more of a crowd-pleaser.
In the weekend’s other new wide releases, the Warner Bros. found-footage horror film “The Gallows” raked in $4.5 million in 2,720 locations. And Gramercy Pictures’ “Self/Less,” a sci-fi thriller starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley, grossed $2 million Friday, sending the three-day weekend estimate to a revised and disappointing $5.1 million.
Disney-Pixar’s “Inside Out,” pulled in $5 million, similar to “Jurassic World.” That’s a drop of 57 percent and 55 percent from last week, respectively. Previously, “Inside Out” had displayed a remarkable hold since its June 19 debut.
But “Minions” was the weekend’s big story — and the “A” rating it got from theatergoers polled by CinemaScore suggests the film will have real staying power.
“Minions” also got a boost from 3D showings, which accounted for 28 percent of Friday’s returns or about $12.4 million.
With a relatively low production budget of $74 million, the movie is proving to be extremely profitable for Universal. So far, the studio is having its biggest year yet, with three of its nine releases (“Jurassic World,” “Pitch Perfect 2,” and “Furious 7”) by far surpassing the $100 million mark. And it’s only July.
Sandra Bullock, John Hamm, Michael Keaton and Steve Coogan provide the voices in the “Despicable Me” prequel. Pierre Coffin, who co-directed the “Despicable Me” movies with Chris Renaud, teamed with Kyle Balda to direct “Minions,” produced by Illumination’s Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy. Renaud served as executive producer of the movie written by Brian Lynch.