‘Pets’ Hijinks Deliver Box-Office Victory for Universal

  • Picture sets opening record for animated non-sequel feature
  • Studio is beefing up animation chops with DreamWorks purchase

“The Secret Life of Pets,” a family feature from Universal Pictures, led the North American box office in its opening weekend, scoring the biggest ever opening for animated non-sequel and marking five straight weeks that animated films have dominated theaters.

The picture from Comcast Corp.’s film division collected an estimated $104.4 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, ComScore Inc. said in Monday an e-mailed statement. That smashed estimates and ended the monthlong No. 1 run for Walt Disney Co.’s “Finding Dory.” The only other new release, the 20th Century Fox comedy “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” garnered $16.6 million and placed fourth.

Five of the top 10 films this year have been animated or computer-generated features for families. “The Secret Life of Pets” is from Universal’s Illumination Entertainment, which also made the successful “Minions” pictures. Universal is adding to its animation prowess with the proposed $3.8 billion purchase of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.

The new film reveals the hijinks that ensue when pet owners are away. Comedians Kevin Hart and Louis C.K. supply two of the voices. The movie cost an estimated $75 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo, as well as many millions more to market. Animator Chris Meledandri’s Illumination is known for its low-cost production, as well as successful box-office results.

The movie was estimated to collect $79 million by BoxOfficePro.com, while Doug Stone of Box Office Analyst predicted it might garner as much as $85 million. The film scored 75 percent positive reviews, according to RottenTomatoes.com.

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