Despicable Me Minions Topple Vampires at Weekend Box Office

The North American box office continued to show improved signs of life this weekend thanks to the solid debuts of the 3D animated feature Despicable Me and the sci-fi action flick Predators. The well-received duo joined solid holdovers The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Toy Story 3 and Grown Ups to help the box office rise a whopping 44% over the same weekend from last year.

If there was one thing that Universal Pictures desperately needed not just this summer but this year in general, it was a big box office hit. It appears that their wishes have been answered with Despicable Me which landed in the number one spot with a huge $60.1 million estimated take from 3,476 screens (nearly 1,500 of those were 3D screens). The cartoon received favorable reviews from a majority of the nation’s critics, and the marketing campaign did a fine job reaching the widest demographic possible (everyone loves funny little minions). The movie’s smash debut is the first genuine hit for the struggling studio who has suffered disappointment after disappointment over the past year or so ever since Fast and Furious revved up $70 million in its April 2008 debut. Don’t be surprised if a sequel is announced by the studio shortly.

The first two Twilight films were front-loaded affairs at the box office, taking a majority of their box office during their first week and a half. The 2008 original did $122.6 million in that period while New Moon grossed $235 million. Eclipse continues the front-loading tradition with one exception: the second week sales drop wasn’t as steep. Whereas the first film dropped 62% in its second weekend and New Moon dropped a huge 70%, the estimated drop on Eclipse is only 48% from the 3-Day holiday weekend, which means that the movie may prove to have better legs than its predecessors. For the weekend, Team Edward sunk its fangs into an estimated $33.5 million to bring its twelve-day total to $237.1 million. If the film’s drop offs continue to be moderate, Eclipse should have no problem breezing past New Moon’s $296.6 million domestic haul as well as the $300 million mark.

The Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators landed in third place for the weekend with a solid $25.3 million from a moderate 2,669 screen count. Produced for only $38 million, the Nimrod Anatal-directed entry in Twentieth Century Fox’s long-running franchise received more than its fair share of positive reviews (as opposed to the largely negative notices that every entry outside of the 1987 original received). While the film scored positive reviews and came away with a good-sized monetary haul for its debut, its day in the sun might be a short one as the film has dropped off precipitously since opening with a big $10.3 million on Friday. Even if the film does fade fast, it should prove be the one profitable movie Fox releases this summer thanks to its low production costs.

The arrival of Despicable Me didn’t seem to have much of an impact on Woody, Buzz and company as the Disney/Pixar juggernaut Toy Story 3 held up very well in its fourth weekend. Dropping a mere 27% from its 3-day holiday gross, the smash hit added another $22 million to its coffers to bring its total up near the $340.2 million range. Without adjusting for inflation, the movie has now passed the studio’s 2003 classic Finding Nemo as its highest grossing film to date and is still eyeing a final take topping the magical $400 million mark domestically.

Bad word of mouth is taking its toll on Paramount’s fantasy epic The Last Airbender which lost over 57.5% of its holiday business to nab $17.1 million while bringing its 11-day total to the $100 million mark. Produced for $150 million (which does not include marketing costs), the critically lambasted M. Night Shyamalan fantasy is looking to finish its run near the $130 million mark, which may not be enough for the studio to produce the trilogy that filmmaker is plotting.

After dropping by more than half last weekend, Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups displayed the best hold in the top ten. The comedy dropped a scant 14% to land in sixth place with a $16.5 million weekend take. The movie has now amassed $111 million in three weeks. Grown Ups now marks Sandler’s 11th film to gross $100 million or more at the North American box office in the last twelve years.

Fox’s Knight and Day also held its ground to nab seventh place. The Tom Cruise action comedy only dropped 24% this weekend to gross $7.8 million to bring its total to the $62 million range. The James Mangold film should finish its gross between $80-90 million. In eighth place was Sony’s family hit The Karate Kid with $5.8 million for the weekend and a new to-date total of approximately $164.6 million.

Rounding out the top ten were two more films from Fox. The A-Team was in ninth place with a $1.8 million weekend take. With $73 million in the bank, Hannibal and company should end their theatrical run near the $80 million mark. Released through their specialty division, Fox Searchlight, the comedy Cyrus expanded to 200 screens to see its ticket sales soar 77.5% to $1.375 million for a new to-date take of $3.52 million.

Universal Pictures received more good news this weekend via its Focus Films division thanks to the debut of The Kids Are All Right which brought in a fantastic $505,000 from only seven screens. The Julianne Moore/Mark Ruffalo comedy has received some of the best reviews of any movie this year, and the huge per-screen average of $72,143 shows that people were paying attention to those raves. Watch for the film to climb into the top ten as it expands across the country over the next few weeks.

Next weekend brings the long-awaited debut of Christopher Nolan’s latest mindbender film Inception on Friday and Disney’s family-friendly The Sorcerer’s Apprentice a couple days earlier on Wednesday.

Predict what these two new films and a trio of holdovers from this past weekend will make next weekend in our interactive Weekend Box Office Prophet Game.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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