Box office: 'Despicable Me' eclipses 'Twilight,' and 'Predators' has good first hunt [Updated]
"Despicable Me" had a sensational debut at the box office, taking in a studio-estimated $60.1 million and easily surpassing the second weekend of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," which dropped 49% to $33.4 million and is playing virtually even with the last "Twilight" movie, "New Moon."
"Predators," the other newbie at the box office this weekend, opened to $25.3 million, a strong start given its modest budget.
But "Despicable Me" was the big box-office news, as the 3-D movie far outpaced expectations based on pre-release surveys and marked a fantastic start for Universal Pictures in the competitive animated family film business. It was the biggest-ever opening for an original animated movie not made by Pixar or DreamWorks Animation, putting Universal's Illumination Entertainment family films unit among the top players in its space.
It was also a notable opening, given that "Toy Story 3" is still doing solid business. That film and "The Last Airbender" took up a number of the nation's 3-D screens, leaving "Despicable Me" with only 1,551 theaters that played the movie in 3-D, about 800 fewer than other recent 3-D movies have enjoyed.
Universal's marketing campaign, which focused on a little, yellow and adorable crew of supporting characters, appeared to strike a chord with animation fans of all ages, as an unusually high 45% of ticket buyers were not families with children younger than 12. Those who saw the movie loved it, giving it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore, foreshadowing a long box-office run that could easily take it to more than $150 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Illumination had an animation studio in France produce "Despicable Me" on a contract basis at a cost of only $69 million, less than half of what Pixar and DreamWorks typically spend. The film should be very profitable as a result, especially if it performs well overseas. The film had a good, but not great, $3.4-million opening in Russia amid very hot weather over the weekend, and has yet to hit other major foreign markets.
"Eclipse," which premiered on a Wednesday, had a smaller second weekend than last year's "New Moon," which fell 70% to $42.9 million after its Friday debut. However, total ticket sales, including weekdays, have put the new "Twilight" picture in a virtual heat with its predecessor at the same point in their runs. "Eclipse" grossed a huge $237 million in its first 12 days, compared with $235.8 million for "New Moon."
Overseas, "Eclipse" is beating "New Moon" in most major markets. "Eclipse" opened higher than its predecessor did in Great Britain and South Korea, but was slightly behind in France. Its international weekend take was $81.1 million and its foreign total is $219 million from 63 countries.
The opening for "Predators," which stars Adrien Brody, was very good given that the film cost only about $40 million. The reboot of the science-fiction action franchise drew a mix of younger men new to the movies and older ones who probably remember the 1987 original that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger.
[Updated at 11:05 a.m.: “Predators” had a very healthy debut overseas as well, taking in $18 million in 22 foreign markets.]
Comparisons to last weekend were easy since the previous Sunday was July 4, a very slow moviegoing day. As a result, many films had small drops of under 30%, including "Toy Story 3," "Grown Ups," and "Knight & Day."
However, "The Last Airbender" was an exception, plummeting 57% on its second weekend as buzz on director M. Night Shyamalan's big-screen version of the Nickelodeon series was apparently not good. The domestic total for Paramount Pictures' only event movie of the summer is a good $100.2 million after 11 days. But if it continues falling fast, the movie, which cost $150 million to produce, may not reach that same number at the box office.
[Updated at 12:27 p.m.: "Airbender" had a very good opening in Russia, debuting to $8 million. It has yet to launch in other major foreign countries.
11:05 a.m.: The strong results for most movies led to total box office revenue that was 41% higher than on the same weekend a year ago, according to Hollywood.com. Since the summer box office season started in early May, total revenue is up 4% and attendance is down a modest 2.5%. (1:44 p.m.: An earlier update had incorrect summer revenue and attendance figures)
Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:
1. “Despicable Me” (Universal): Opened to $60.1 million. $5 million overseas in four foreign markets.
2. “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (Summit): $33.4 million on its second weekend, down 49%. $81.1 million overseas in 63 foreign markets. Domestic total: $237 million. International total: $219 million.
3. “Predators” (Fox/Dune): Opened to $25.3 million. $18 million overseas in 22 foreign markets.
4. “Toy Story 3” (Disney/Pixar): $22 million on its fourth weekend, down 27%. $39.1 million overseas in 39 foreign markets. Domestic total: $340.2 million. International total: $213.1 million.
5. “The Last Airbender” (Paramount): $17.2 million on its second weekend, down 57%. Domestic total: $100.2 million. [12:27 p.m.: Debuted in four countries overseas with $10 million.]
6. “Grown Ups” (Sony/Relativity): $16.4 million on its third weekend, down 14%. $1.6 million in five foreign markets. Domestic total: $111.3 million. International total: $7.9 million.
7. “Knight & Day” (Fox/New Regency/Dune): $7.9 million on its third weekend, down 25%. $10.4 million overseas in 30 foreign markets. Domestic total: $61.9 million. International total: $38.5 million.
8. “The Karate Kid” (Sony/China Film Group): $5.7 million on its fifth weekend, down 29%. $12.3 million overseas in 27 foreign markets. Domestic total: $164.6 million. International total: $42.1 million.
9. “The A-Team” (Fox/Dune): $1.8 million on its fifth weekend, down 44%. $1.4 million overseas in 27 foreign markets. Domestic total: $74 million. International total: $57.8 million.
10. “Cyrus” (Fox Searchlight): $1.4 million on its fourth weekend, up 78% as it expanded from 77 to 200 theaters. Domestic total: $3.5 million.
12:05 p.m.: An earlier version of this update had an inaccurate percentage change for "Cyrus."]
-- Ben Fritz
Top photo: A scene from "Despicable Me." Credit: Universal Pictures. Bottom photo: Adrien Brody and Alice Braga in "Predators." Credit: Rico Torres / 20th Century Fox