‘Despicable Me 2’ Tops Depp’s ‘Lone Ranger’ for Holiday Weekend

Universal Pictures’ animated feature “Despicable Me 2” was the top-selling movie over the holiday weekend, outgunning Johnny Depp in Walt Disney Co.’s costly Western “The Lone Ranger.”

The comedy from Comcast Corp.’s film studio took in $82.5 million from Friday to Sunday, building on a strong opening earlier in the week, Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement. “The Lone Ranger” collected $29.4 million. In the five days since their release, “Despicable Me 2” took in $142.1 million and Disney’s picture received $48.9 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. Both movies beat their three-day and five-day estimates from researcher Boxoffice.com.

“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.’s hit franchise.

Super Villain

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 forecast to take in $80 million for the Friday-to-Sunday weekend, and $130 million from July 3, according to Boxoffice.com.

It was praised by critics. Of 138 reviews compiled on Rottentomatoes.com, 75 percent were positive.

“‘Despicable Me 2’ 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,” made for an estimated $225 million, was subjected to harsh reviews. Doug Creutz, an analyst with Cowen & Co. in San Francisco, predicts a $100 million write-off for the studio, which would make it Disney’s biggest disappointment since last year’s $200 million loss on the science-fiction epic “John Carter.”

Of 147 reviews compiled by Rottentomatoes.com, only 23 percent were positive.

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.

The movie was forecast to take in $29 million for the three-day weekend and $47 million for the five days since its July 3 opening, the estimate of Boxoffice.com.

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