After two years of delay, Minions: The Rise of Gru finally debuts, and what do you know? It’s still immensely popular!
With an estimated $43 million opening day gross, Minions: The Rise of Gru is already set to have one of the biggest openings of the Despicable Me franchise. Per the usual rules of opening weekend (that opening day usually accounts for 40% of the overall weekend haul), that gross should tee the film up for an opening weekend of around $100 million. It will likely open lower than that of the original Minions movie’s $115 million but given the seven-year gap between the film’s releases, that’s not at all a bad thing. Plus, with many places of work closed for the 4th of July (not mine……it is what it is), there will be a lot more families available to watch and so the 4-Day gross should really boost Rise fo Gru’s opening big-time.
It’s admittedly quite remarkable that Rise of Gru is looking to do this kind of business. To be fair, everyone knew that the film would do good business, 1) because it’s a Minions/Despicable Me movie and audiences eat those up, and 2) it’s from Illumination Entertainment which almost always manages to deliver. However, while the “kiddie” market is very strong (i.e. Universal and Illumination’s own Sing 2 and The Bad Guys, as well as Paramount’s Sonic 2), the Minions craze, one would think, had already been pretty played out since their debut in the first Despicable Me movie back in 2010(!). Heck, many thought they were already played out by the time the official Minions stand-alone spin-off movie was released in 2015, as exemplified by the reviews which were, at the time, the least favorable of the franchise. To be fair, that first Minions movie did end up making over $1 billion at the box office and remains (as of now) the highest-grossing Despicable Me movie to date, but one could argue that the banana-loving, gibberish-speaking, ocularly-varied creatures were not only at the zenith of their popularity but also that many people came to see the film out of sheer curiosity regarding how you would make a movie solely focused on the Minions. In that regard, one might think that Minions: The Rise of Gru would not be set up to play nearly as well as the original, rather instead playing like fellow “kid-friendly” animated features (likes of Angry Birds 2 and Sing 2) which lost many of the curious adult members of the audience on their franchises second go-arounds and played more as “solely for kids”, thereby roping in a smaller audience of primarily families while the original, curious movie watchers of other ages decided to pass on these sequels that they considered “not for them”. For Angry Birds 2, this was a death sentence as the film ended up grossing -56% less than its predecessor and barely recouped its budget, while Sing 2 still managed to be successful thanks to a release in the Christmas corridor and already being modestly budgeted (like Illumination films usually are).
The other major obstacle here was the pandemic. It’s become a running gag in the box office prognostication sphere that trailers for The Rise of Gru have played in front of both Sonic the Hedgehog movies in 2020 and 2022. The pandemic wrought particular damage upon this film given just how far the film was pushed back from its original release date of July 3, 2020. While it did manage to avoid the drastic game of “movie release date musical chairs” that No Time to Die had to go through (a situation exacerbated by the fact that its release was handled by both MGM and Universal-the former handling the domestic release and the latter the international-and saw the completed film cycle through at least four different dates over the course of a year), it’s still an incredible delay that has resulted in the completed film literally sitting on the shelf for two straight years. Given that, all joking aside, people have been seeing promotional material for this film for two years, you’d think audiences, already thought to be “sick” of Minions, would be tuned out at this point. However, it became abundantly clear that said situation would not be the case when Thursday night previews came in at $10.7 million. Such a preview gross is actually the highest for the entire Despicable Me franchise. Once again, it’s a testament to the strength of “kiddie” audiences at the box office which have consistently managed to produce the strongest grosses for films since theaters have reopened, and with Lightyear tanking, Rise of Gru is all but too happy to step into its place and be the big “kid-friendly” movie event of the summer.
Now, generally, preview grosses for this franchise have generally translated into opening days about 7x as big, and opening weekends about 17x as big, which would suggest that Rise of Gru was headed for an opening weekend gross of $170-180 million. However, that is definitively not happening as that would be an opening on par with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and while Despicable Me is a big deal brand at the box office, it’s simply not in the same league as the MCU. Furthermore, looking closer at the preview numbers versus the opening day numbers, $10.7 million in previews to a $43 million opening day is only about x4 multiplier. Compared to the rest of the other preview-to-opening day gross multipliers for this franchise, this suggests that the inflated preview gross here is a symptom of anticipation more than anything else. In terms of Friday-to-Full Weekend gross multipliers (a number much less prone to being heavily altered by anticipation), the Despicable Me franchise has been extraordinarily consistent, with their opening weekend grosses generally being about 2.5x their Friday grosses, which would see Rise of Gru grossing at least $100 million. Most pundits are predicting a 3-Day opening in the $90 million range, but I suspect that this is in large part due to the presence of the July 4th holiday making the weekend something of a 4-Day corridor. In any case, Rise of Gru is perfectly positioned for success and looks to achieve it wholeheartedly this weekend in the number one spot.
As for the rest of the top ten, we’re mostly looking at holdovers. Unsurprisingly, Top Gun: Maverick will likely come in second place this weekend. Given its military setting, Paramount is smartly shifting its marketing to position the film as the “perfect 4th of July movie”, which it probably is. I currently am predicting it to have a -30% hold for a gross of $20.72 million in second place, but I would very easily see it going way up given the theming, even likely taking the highest gross of any movie on Monday and heavily boosting its 4-Day haul. It also helps immensely that, with Rise of Gru also in the market and performing well, plus Jurassic World: Dominion also being a more “all-ages” actioner, Top Gun: Maverick has established itself as the prime destination for adult audiences this weekend. That said, while it’s certainly prime, it’s not the only adult-skewing game in town as Elvis also entered the fray last weekend with a solid debut of $31 million. Now, to be clear, I definitely don’t think that Elvis and Top Gun will cannibalize each other all that much as they are very different films; Top Gun being a rousing crowdpleaser while Elvis is a more hefty (if still spectacle-driven, given the Baz Luhrmann of it all) biopic. While I don’t expect Elvis to be able to outgross Top Gun again, I would not be surprised to see it hold its own relatively well, especially given that celebrates a true American icon, something that also fits well into the 4th of July theme. Having opened relatively on par with Rocketman, I am currently making the safer bet that it will gross $17.16 million this weekend (a -45% drop) in third place, but we should definitely keep an eye out.
Rounding out the top five, Jurassic World is likely to come in fourth with a drop of around -45% and a gross of about $14.68, taking it to at least $330 million domestic by the end of the weekend. In fifth place, I’m expecting to see The Black Phone which I have pinned with a -50% drop on account of not exactly knowing where the audience stands with this one. The B+ Cinemascore last weekend was a great sign (horror films generally make out with Cs) but well-received horror films from Blumhouse still tend to see bigger drops in their second weekends (i.e. Surprising hit Happy Death Day which dropped a huge -64% in its second weekend). Scott Derrickson’s first Sinister movie dropped -51% in its second weekend and given its similar aesthetic and tone to the Black Phone, a 50% drop seems like a reasonable bet. Expect it to gross around $11.8 million.
Sixth place, I expect, will be home to Lightyear which continues to flounder. I expect it to start leveling out this weekend with a relatively small -55% drop, but that will still have it grossing only $8.16 million. With the film currently having only taken in about $162 million on a reported $200 million, it’s safe to truly label the film a dud. On the opposite end of that spectrum, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is likely to come in seventh with a drop of -45% and a gross of $979K. That would take it to around $411 million domestic through Sunday as the film ends its run with a worldwide total of about $950 million. Not too shabby!
As for the rest of the top ten, given the swath of blockbusters that just entered the market, as well as the relative lack of major titles this summer, eighth through tenth place is basically counting as the specialty market in terms of its makeup and grosses. Eighth place will likely be the home to our other new wide release this weekend, Mr. Malcolm’s List. This Bleecker Street release, based on the novel by Suzanne Allain and featuring a predominately non-white cast, follows a woman in the 1800s who schemes with her friend to get revenge on the man who spurned her for not meeting all the requirements on his “list” for marriage, only to then (in true Jane Austen-fashion) start to fall for him in the process. It looks absolutely delightful and it’s very nice to see Freida Pinto in a lead role again (though I am admittedly a bit bummed that Constance Wu, who was originally tapped for the role, had to drop out), but I don’t expect it to make waves being that it is a Bleecker Street film. More accessible than most indie releases, a debut around $750K seems an appropriate prediction. Ninth will likely go to Everything, Everywhere, All at Once in its 15th week of release (amazing!) with $289K, while tenth should be home to Bob’s Burgers with $199K.
Specialty-wise (for real this time), Marcel the Shell with Shoes On will continue to be the focus after a fantastic debut last weekend, though we also have two other titles to look out for. Clara Sola, last year’s Costa Rican entry for Best International Film at the Academy Awards, releases this weekend, though with little fanfare, while Jessica Chastain will make an appearance alongside Ralph Fiennes in the Morroco-set The Forgiven. Described by one Twitter user this past weekend (hilariously so) as “The White Lotus: Morroco“, this class warfare/white guilt tale follows a couple (Chastain and Fiennes) as they accidentally run over a local in the Morrocan desert on their way to a lavish party, proceed to hide the body, and then head straight to the party. As one can imagine, chaos ensues. Being released by Roadside Attractions, I’m not expecting much from the film box office-wise, though the internet will likely eat it up.