Box Office Futures: Minions

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Since the midsummer release of Illumination Entertainment/Universal’s Despicable Me in 2010, the Minions have quickly become juggernauts throughout our collective conscience in pop culture. Their popularity has helped propel the Despicable Me franchise from a standout box office success to one of heaviest hitting franchises in recent memory. But, are the Minions strong enough to gross a $1 billion on their own?

On July 9, 2010, Despicable Me opened to a remarkable $56 million in the domestic market – on its way to $251 million. That was a very impressive showing, as the film even managed to out-gross heavy hitting competition like Disney’s Tangled, and Dreamwork’s How to Train Your Dragon and the final installment of the Shrek series. If not for the third entry in the Toy Story series, Despicable Me would have succored the domestic crown for animation that year.

Three years later saw the release of Despicable Me 2 to nearly double the worldwide gross of its predecessor on a minuscule budget compared to it’s animated brethren. The film opened up to $83 million on the domestic front on its way to $368 million. However, it was the waves the film produced internationally that made it a mind-boggling spectacle to those who follow box office receipts. The film grossed $72 million in the UK (an equivalent to nearly $400 million on the domestic front), and a late $52 million China that put the film within a stone’s throw of joining the $1 billion club.

In my own opinion, the success of Despicable Me marked the solidification of two distinct things for Universal that will concede with the year 2015:

1)   Illumination Entertainment proving itself to be the one of, if not the most, efficiently successful animated studios in Hollywood.
2)   The end of Universal’s losing streak amongst major Hollywood Studios.

To understand these points, I’ll have to give a brief history lesson. You see, in 2007, Universal was at the top of their game. Stand out hits: The Bourne Ultimatum, Knocked Up, American Gangster and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry lead the studio to one of its most profitable years ever in the domestic box office. However, even in that year, the cracks in the armor were already showing, as high profile releases: Evan Almighty died upon impact – leaving a whole lot to be desired from spectators and investors alike. What followed was a grueling three-year losing streak. Nevertheless, in those years, Universal began to plant the seeds of recovery with the rejuvenation of the Fast & Furious franchise and their first embark into the animation world with Illumination studios. Both endeavors paid off in spades scoring Universal studios a record breaking year in 2013 with the release Fast & Furious 6 and Despicable Me 2.

Now, two years later, Universal is gearing up to release a highly anticipated Furious sequel and a guaranteed successful spin-off of one of their most profitable franchise ever. Not to mention, Jurassic World, Ted 2 and Crimson Peak (a Guillermo del Toro passion project). I believe it is without a doubt going to be Universal’s biggest year of all time on the domestic, international, and worldwide fronts. Yet, they will still probably lose the crown to Disney’s sextuple blow: 2 Marvel, 2 Pixar, 1 Star Wars and a Brad Bird picture.

Anyway, the secret to understanding the success of the Minions movie probably rests with the film’s acceptance and success in Asian markets more than it does in domestic or Europeans countries. While the second Despicable Me film was given a late theatrical distribution in China, the first film was never shown in theaters. Furthermore, Japan has never officially warmed up to the series, as the last two films grossed a mere $37 million combined. In comparison, the Despicable Me movies preform rather well in many of the other major markets around the world, the last film managed $40 million in France, $38 million in Germany and $35 million in Russia.

For my long term predictions of the Minions movie:

  •  Domestic: $278.57 million (30%)
  •  International: $650 million (70%)
  •  Worldwide: $928.57 million (100%)

Right now, the assumption is that success of Despicable Me will and can be a very good indicator of how well the Minions movie will actually do at the box office. While I think that the film will be a run away success, I don’t believe that it will have enough steam to reach the $1 billion club due to the lack of Steve Carell’s Gru and the children. One of the things that makes the Despicable Me franchise so universally accepted amongst moviegoers is its dedication to telling heartfelt stories of relationships. Taking the main characters out of that equation means that the Minions movie is going to be fighting an uphill battle with anyone older than a certain age to find a reason to sit through another 2 hour long adventure in the Despicable Me’vers.

Until the release of the movie, we can all enjoy the ending of Despicable Me 2 (Warming: Contains Spoilers)

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