‘Despicable Me 4’ Surpasses July 4 Box Office Gross with $122.6 Million

Gru and the Minions set off fireworks at the box office as America celebrated its birthday. “Despicable Me 4,” the latest chapter in Universal and Illumination’s long-running franchise about a recovering supervillain who trades world domination for family life, dominated the competition, earning $122.6 million in its first five days of release and $75 million over the three-day weekend. The film opened Wednesday, allowing it to take full advantage of the Fourth of July holiday.

But the appeal of “Despicable Me” transcends borders. Internationally, the film earned $106.9 million from 52 markets, bringing its global gross to $229.5 million. Even better, “Despicable Me 4” has a relatively frugal production budget of $100 million, which should make it highly profitable for the companies behind it, not to mention all the Minions merchandise they’ll be selling. By comparison, films from Pixar and Illumination’s chief rival, Disney, routinely cost $200 million to make.

One of those Disney and Pixar productions, “Inside Out 2,” remained a box office hit, raking in $30 million for a second-place finish. The animated sequel about the emotional life of a teenage girl is the biggest hit of the summer, grossing $533.8 million in the U.S. and $1.2 billion worldwide (it passed “Minions” to become the fifth-highest-grossing animated release in history). Paramount’s “A Quiet Place: Day One,” which is aimed at older audiences, earned $21 million over the weekend for a third-place finish, bringing the horror prequel’s domestic gross to a sterling $94.4 million.

Box office analysts believe the movie industry is rebounding after a terrible start to the summer, which saw well-reviewed films like “The Fall Guy” and “Furiosa” flop and ticket sales plunge nearly 28 percent. Things are changing now, with new installments in franchises like “Despicable Me,” “Inside Out,” “A Quiet Place” and “Bad Boys” closing the gap — revenue is now down 17 percent.

“What a difference a few heavyweights can make,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. “They’ve really made a difference and you can feel the momentum building.”

That’s good news for other major studio releases like “Deadpool & Wolverine” and “Twisters,” which hit theaters this month.

Also premiering on Independence Day, A24’s “MaXXXine,” a horror thriller about a starlet set in 1980s Hollywood, debuted with $6.7 million for fourth place, while Angel Studios’ “Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot,” a faith-based drama about the members of a rural church and the foster children they help, earned $3.2 million over the weekend to bring its domestic total to $6.8 million. Utah-based Angel Studios scored an outsized hit with last summer’s “Sound of Freedom,” which was aimed at a Christian audience and premiered on July 4, 2023, before grossing more than $250 million. Given its modest start, don’t expect “Sound of Hope” to come close to that kind of success. “MaXXXine” also suffered from a more muted start, opening slightly below projections, allowing the film to debut with just over $8 million. The film’s audience consisted largely of men between the ages of 18 and 34, and “MaXXXine” was strongest in coastal cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as in Austin, Texas, where Alamo Drafthouse, a movie theater chain that caters to cinephiles, was overrepresented.

Sony’s “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” the latest Will Smith and Martin Lawrence exercise in pranks, pyrotechnics and vehicular destruction, rounded out the top five. The film earned $6.5 million, bringing its domestic total to $177.4 million.

Meanwhile, Kevin Costner’s expensive western “Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1” appears ready to sail off into the sunset with little baggage. The film, a $100 million passion project that Costner mortgaged his land to make, earned $5.5 million over the weekend, bringing its domestic total to a disastrous $22.2 million. A second installment in what was once intended to be a four-film series is scheduled to open in August. Costner is in the process of producing a third chapter, but after audiences shunned the first, questions remain about the commercial viability of his labor of love.

That’s not the case with “Despicable Me,” which has shown remarkable staying power, spawning multiple sequels and spinoffs since the first film premiered in 2010. Each of those films has premiered in first place, and the series has become virtually synonymous with the Fourth of July, with nearly every installment debuting during that time period.

“It’s a great debut for a franchise that has had many entries,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s head of distribution. “People all over the world love Gru and the Minions and find them clever, adorable and hysterically funny.”

The success of “Despicable Me 4” continues a hot streak for Illumination, which has scored hits like “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Sing” and “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and has become one of the most trusted brands in movies. Orr praised the company and its founder Chris Meledandri for “having their finger on the pulse of what audiences want.”

The latest “Despicable Me” adventure brings back Steve Carell as Gru and introduces new co-stars in Will Ferrell (as a French villain named Maxime Le Mal) and Sofia Vergara (who plays Maxime’s partner in love and crime). But it’s the Minions, the lovable, anarchic, gibberish-spouting creatures who have captured the hearts of children and have become the Illumination mascot in the process. When asked if there might be more “Despicable Me” films and spinoffs in the future, Orr was adamant. “Absolutely,” he said. “Especially after a debut like this.”

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