Universal Pictures’ “Despicable Me 2” set box-office records in its debut over the July 4 holiday weekend, while Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s “The Lone Ranger” bombed, failing to match even last year’s megaflop “John Carter.”
“Despicable Me 2,” a comedy from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s film studio and Illumination Entertainment, took in $83.5 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters from July 5 to yesterday, building on a strong opening early in the week, Hollywood.com Box-Office said in an e-mailed statement. Its $143.1 million to date marks the biggest five-day opening ever for an animated feature.
“The Lone Ranger,” by contrast, generated $29.2 million in three days, missing estimates of $38 million and falling almost $1 million short of the opening for “John Carter,” the 2012 sci-fi bust that led to a $200 million writedown for Disney. The disappointment highlights the risk studios take trying to create new franchises that can lead to sequels.
“The property didn’t connect with a younger audience,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president for sales and distribution, calling the sales “disappointing.” “That’s particularly frustrating given the time, energy and cost, and when it feels like you have the ingredients to succeed.”
Those ingredients, he said, included an 80-year-old property known to millions around the world, one of the most successful producers in Hollywood in Jerry Bruckheimer, award-winning director Gore Verbinski and “the biggest star in the world,” Johnny Depp.
“The Lone Ranger” cost about $225 million to make. Based on ticket sales so far, Disney may take a $190 million writedown on the film, said Barton Crockett, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets. He had earlier forecast a $113 million loss.
“Many investors had been skeptical about Disney’s ‘The Lone Ranger’ reboot,” Crockett said in a research note. “They were right.”
Sixty-eight percent of “The Lone Ranger” theatergoers were over 25, and 24 percent were over 50, according to Hollis, the Disney distribution executive. He said it’s premature to suggest Disney will have to take a writeoff.
“The movie is only in the first week of its run,” Hollis said. “It’s too early to say that, and possibly reckless.”
Both studios released their movies ahead of the weekend to take advantage of the U.S. Independence Day holiday. The first week in July is traditionally one of the biggest of the year for theaters and filmmakers.
“Despicable Me 2,” made for $76 million, is the fourth No. 1 opening for Universal this year, following “Fast & Furious 6,” “Identity Thief” and “Oblivion.” Sales of the movie, a sequel to Universal’s 2010 hit about a criminal mastermind who is reformed by a trio of orphans, mean a third installment of the franchise is a near certainty, said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations Co.
“I think that’s a foregone conclusion,” said Bock. “This is probably the most anticipated animated sequel since ‘Shrek 2,’” he said, referring to DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. (DWA)’s hit franchise.
In “Despicable Me 2,” former criminal Gru is recruited to battle a new super villain. The film, which features the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Russell Brand, was projected to take in $140 million in North America from its opening through July 7, according to Boxoffice.com.
Over five days, receipts beat the record held by “Toy Story 3” with $141 million, according to Hollywood.com.
“When you have a big opener, and look at the company we are in with the biggest five-day opener, it’s very exciting,” Nikki Rocco, president of distribution for Universal Pictures, said in a telephone interview. “This is going to be a blockbuster.”
Universal already plans a related picture featuring characters from the series. The film, titled “Minions,” is scheduled for release in December 2014, she said.
“People love the Minions,” Rocco said.
“Despicable Me 2” was praised by critics. Of 138 reviews compiled on Rottentomatoes.com, 75 percent were positive. The film “is light on its feet, visually inventive and very fast with the repartee,” wrote Los Angeles Times critic Betsy Sharkey. “It requires actors who can pull off the many peppery lines at warp speed and in that the film is lucky with its voice cast.”
“The Lone Ranger” was subjected to harsh reviews. Of 147 critiques compiled by Rottentomatoes.com, only 23 percent were positive. Projections for the movie were $60 million for the five-day period, according to Boxoffice.com. Receipts totaled $48.7 million.
The film stars Armie Hammer in the title role and Depp as his partner Tonto. The picture tells the story of the masked crime fighter’s origins as he unites with Tonto to fight a plot by railroad executives and a U.S. Army officer played by Barry Pepper.
“The shoot-’em-up action sequences, modestly thrilling early on, grow as wearisome as Depp’s endless double-takes and laconic one-liners,” Bloomberg News critic Greg Evans wrote.
“It was a real disappointment for the studio,” Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries, said in a telephone interview. “Estimates have been coming down the last few weeks as reviews came in negatively. It is going to be a black eye for Disney.”
Among returning films, “Monsters University” dropped to fourth place after two weeks at No. 1 with $19.7 million. The Disney film has taken in $216.3 million since it opened on June 21, according to Hollywood.com.
Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 22 percent to $221.6 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com Box-Office said. Attendance is down 1 percent year to date. Revenue is 1.2 percent lower at $5.71 billion.
The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Hollywood.com Box-Office. The amounts are based on actual ticket sales for July 5 to yesterday.
Rev. Avg./ Pct. Total Movie mln) Theaters Theater Chg. (mln) Wks ================================================================ 1 DESPICABLE ME 2 $83.5 3,997 $20,895 -- $143.1 1 2 THE LONE RANGER 29.2 3,904 7,482 -- 48.7 1 3 THE HEAT 24.8 3,184 7,778 -37 86.3 2 4 MONSTERS UNIVERSITY 19.7 3,739 5,273 -57 216.3 3 5 WORLD WAR Z 18.4 3,316 5,552 -38 159.0 3 6 WHITE HOUSE DOWN 13.5 3,222 4,183 -46 50.5 2 7 MAN OF STEEL 11.4 2,905 3,929 -45 271.2 4 8 KEVIN HART: 10.0 876 11,450 -- 17.4 1 9 THIS IS THE END 5.9 2,104 2,790 -33 85.7 4 10 NOW YOU SEE ME 2.9 1,606 1,777 -49 110.5 6 11 STAR TREK 1.3 565 2,319 -38 223.1 8 12 FAST & FURIOUS 6 1.1 617 1,740 -56 235.5 7 Top 12 Films Grosses This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $221.6 $182.3 +22 Year-to-date Revenue 2013 2012 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $5,711 $5,781 -1.2 Year-to-date Attendance: -1.0%
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