After a two year delay due to the pandemic, Illumination / Universal’s Minions: The Rise of Gru, the fifth movie in the Despicable Me / Minions universe, arrives looking to lead the Independence Day domestic box office with $ 70M- $ 80M over 4-days, and another $ 70M + abroad for a potential $ 150M global launch. There are no other major studio wide entries over July 4th weekend.
Through four movies comprised of three Despicable Mes and a Minions spinoff, the Illumination franchise has chalked up $ 3.7 billion worldwide.
Should Minions: The Rise of Gru come in under its US / Canada projections, it’s strictly due to franchise fatigue. There have been few animated family movies during the pandemic, so comps are scant. Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with a $ 72.1M opening is still the ideal comparison for any major studio’s animated fare. Sonic 2 received an offshore opening ahead of US / Canada vs. the global day and date here for Minions: The Rise of Gru.
The recent faltering of Lightyear, with an $ 86M global debut and $ 50.5M domestic start, boiled down to Toy Story fans’ upset with the spinoff; not Covid fears. Remember, NRG recently reported record moviegoer comfort rates. Further proof that Lightyear‘s underperformance was about product lies in its 64% second weekend decline at the domestic box office ($ 18.1M). That was the second worst drop for a Pixar movie after Onward’73 -73% second weekend; that pic then impacted by the onset of the pandemic in mid-March 2020.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is booked at 4,400 theaters. US previews start at 2PM on Thursday. Abroad, the Kyle Balda (Despicable Me 3, Minions), Brad Ableson (The Simpsons) and Jonathan Del Val (The Secret Life of Pets films) directed sequel is hitting 61 markets including Mexico, Germany, Brazil, the UK, Spain, Middle East and parts of South East Asia. Majors not in this suite, but going later this month are France, Japan and Korea. Italy goes at the end of August.
While it’s been known that spinoffs often open lower than the core installments in a franchise, interestingly enough the 2015 Minions owns the top domestic opening of all time in the Despicable Me / Minions universe with $ 115.7M. This is followed by 2013’s Despicable Me 2 ($ 83.5M 3-day), 2017’s Despicable Me 3 ($ 72.4M) and 2010’s Despicable Me ($ 56.3M).
As far as Rotten Tomatoes critical ratings, Rise of Gru currently stands at 70% fresh vs. Minions 55% Rotten. Despicable Me was the best reviewed of the series at 81% fresh, part 2 with 75% and part 3 at 59% Rotten.
For Universal, the box office for Minions is just but one cog in the IP’s wheelhouse for the conglom. Minions retail sales have amassed an estimated $ 6 billion-plus since the franchise’s inception 12 years ago. Again, a business phenomenon like that all starts with a theatrical movie, not a streaming one. Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri and his longtime collaborators Janet Healy and Chris Renaud are back as producers on Rise of Gru.
In regards to comps for Rise of Gru overseas, in like-for-likes at today’s rates (and excluding previews), 2015’s Minions opened to $ 95M with 2017’s Despicable Me 3 at $ 85M and 2013’s Despicable Me 2 at $ 61M.
Australia had an early launch last weekend where Rise Of Gru opened to $ 3.8M, at No. 2 behind the debut of Elvis and running 8% ahead of Despicable Me 28% below Despicable Me 3 and 9% below Minions. It also came in 85% ahead of the recent start of Lightyear.
Typically, the Despicable Me franchise excels in a mix of Japan, the UK, Germany, France and Mexico. China also figures in that mix, but the film is not yet dated there. A word of caution regarding this session: Germany has seen some softness with moviegoing comfort having dipped somewhat.
Rise of Gru world premiered at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival earlier this month with Meledandri in attendance. He then appeared at the CineEurope exhibition conference for an onstage interview with Deadline Co-Editor-in-Chief Mike Fleming Jr.
Local voice talent has also been on hand at premieres and events including in Mexico and Spain. In the States, franchise star Steve Carell is back, with a fresh voice cast that includes Taraji P. Henson, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michelle Yeoh and Julie Andrews. Russell Brand reprises his role as Dr. Nefario, albeit a younger version.
Meanwhile, the Universal marketing machine has cranked up activations and promotional stunts around the world, with kids primed and ready.
In the UK, a pop-up Despicable Discs store was erected in Soho while a pair of Minions was projected boogieing on the facade of Paris’ Bibilothèque Nationale during the Fête de la Musique last week.
The campaign for Rise of Gru began with a teaser trailer in front of 2021’s biggest animated title, Illumination’s Sing 2. The start of this year saw Minions spots placed in the NFC and AFC Championship Games and across the Winter Olympics in the US, followed by the March launch of the film’s second trailer which included in-theater placement in front of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. To date, three online trailers have amassed more than a half billion views.
The little guys have also popped up on The Voice in Mexico; decorated the Arc de Triomphe in Paris; disco-danced with members of the Paris St Germain soccer club; and overtaken shopping malls and multiplexes in Spain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and elsewhere.