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‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ breaks box office records

<i>Universal Pictures</i><br/>
Illumination Entertainment & Uni
Universal Pictures

By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business

The Minions went bananas at the box office this weekend.

Illumination’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” — the latest animated film in the Despicable Me franchise — made an estimated $125 million domestically for its four-day opening weekend, according to Universal.

That gives the film the record for biggest opening over the July 4th holiday weekend, overtaking “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” which made $115 million in 2011.

The opening is a huge shot in the arm for theaters. The industry has been anxiously waiting to see if families — who have been somewhat reluctant to bring their children to the movies during the pandemic — would return to theaters. While there have been family-friendly hits such as “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” this question became more pressing after Disney’s and Pixar’s “Lightyear” flopped at the box office last month.

But the performance of “Minions” shows that not only do families want to come back, but they’ll come back in large numbers for the right film.

“Families want to be in theaters,” Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic theatrical distribution, told CNN Business. “They want the social event of it all.”

Why “Minions” did well is likely a mixture of good reviews (it holds a 71% score on Rotten Tomatoes), being the next installment in a franchise that’s made roughly $4 billion worldwide — and possibly even TikTok, after the social media site created a viral trend that had moviegoers dress up in formal wear to see the film.

“Minions” was originally set for release in 2020, but was delayed multiple times due to the pandemic. While other family films decided to go to streaming, Universal held “Minions” for theaters — a strategy that paid off handsomely this weekend.

“A knockout performance by ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ may not have been guaranteed, given the less-than-stellar results for some recent family films,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNN Business. “But the undeniable appeal of those silly Minions contained in a perfectly executed movie-theater-only confection was pure cinematic catnip for kids and parents.”

Now, theaters hope to keep the hot streak going as they prepare for what could be one of the biggest films of the year: “Thor: Love and Thunder.” The latest Marvel film, which has Chris Hemsworth reprise his role as the God of Thunder, hits theaters this weekend.

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