Comcast’s Universal Pictures is Hollywood’s top-grossing moviemaker so far this year. Asked at Allen & Co.’s annual media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, in July what’s behind the studio’s turnaround from fourth place in 2012, Ron Meyer, the veteran executive who’s now NBCUniversal’s vice chairman, simply said, “We hired Chris Meledandri.”
Meledandri is the producer of Despicable Me 2, the highest-grossing animated film this year. The picture, which features comedian Steve Carell as the voice of a supervillain named Gru, has sold more than $840 million in tickets worldwide. In a summer marked by big-budget flops such as Walt Disney’s $225 million The Lone Ranger and Sony’s $150 million White House Down, Despicable Me 2 cost only $76 million. That puts it on track to be the most profitable film in Universal’s 101-year history, says NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Steve Burke.