‘Despicable Me 2’ Leads in Cinemas as ‘Ranger’ Misfires

Universal Pictures’ “Despicable Me 2” was the top-selling film in U.S. and Canadian theaters over the first two days of the extended July 4 holiday, more than triple the take for “The Lone Ranger” from Walt Disney Co.

“Despicable Me 2,” an animated comedy from Comcast Corp.’s film division, collected $59.5 million in ticket sales over the two days, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said yesterday in a statement. “The Lone Ranger,” made for an estimated $225 million, brought in $19.5 million.

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.

“Earnings will have to come down with ‘Lone Ranger,’” Laura Martin, a Needham & Co. analyst in Los Angeles, said today in a telephone interview. She has a hold rating on Disney stock.

“Despicable Me 2,” made for $76 million, is the fourth No. 1 opening for Universal Pictures this year, following “Fast & Furious 6,” “Identity Thief” and “Oblivion.” The studio is ranked third in 2013 ticket sales behind first-place Disney and Time Warner Inc., according to Box Office Mojo, another researcher. The film has collected $134.5 million worldwide, Hollywood.com said.

Super Villain

“Despicable Me 2” follows Universal’s 2010 hit about a criminal mastermind Gru, who changed for the better after he tried to manipulate a trio of orphans to advance one of his schemes.

In the new film, Gru is recruited to battle a super villain. The sequel was projected to take in $140 million in North America from its opening through July 7, according to Boxoffice.com.

After harsh reviews, Disney may struggle to turn a profit from “The Lone Ranger. Doug Creutz, an analyst at Cowen & Co. in San Francisco, predicts a $100 million write-off for the studio, which would make it the company’s biggest movie disappointment since last year’s $200 million loss on the science-fiction epic ‘‘John Carter.”

Of 135 reviews for “The Lone Ranger” compiled by Rottentomatoes.com, only 24 percent were positive, according to the website.

Projections for the film were $60 million for the five-day period and $38 million for the three-day weekend, according to Boxoffice.com. A final tally will be released July 8.

Depp, Hammer

The movie 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 nefarious plot by railroad executives and a U.S. Army officer played by Barry Pepper.

The two new films opened with late-night showings on July 2. “The Lone Ranger” took in $4.7 million and “Despicable Me 2” collected $2 million in those showings, Hollywood.com Box-Office said.

Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, gained 0.3 percent to $63.82 yesterday in New York. The stock has risen 28 percent this year, compared with 14 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Philadelphia-based Comcast, the largest cable TV company, advanced 1.3 percent to $41.70 and is up 12 percent in 2013.

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