Weekend Briefing: 'Despicable Me,' 'Predators' Take Aim at Audiences
by Ray Subers
July 9, 2010
After the last three weeks were dominated by Toy Story 3 and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, two comparatively lower profile newcomers take aim at solid returns this weekend. 3D animated feature Despicable Me opens at 3,475 theaters, while Predators lands at 2,669 locations.
Despicable Me follows Shrek Forever After and Toy Story 3 as the third major 3-D computer-animated movie of the summer. While those movies had a built-in brand and production houses known for making hits, Despicable Me is an unestablished property and only the third computer-animated release ever for Universal Pictures. It's also their first movie in a deal with Illumination Entertainment, founded by former Fox Animation president Chris Meledandri. During his tenure at Fox, Meledandri was responsible for overseeing the first two entries in the hugely successful Ice Age series, which made $176.4 and $195.3 million, respectively. He also had a hand in bringing Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who! ($154.5 million) and Robots ($128.2 million) to the big screen. Still, Meledandri is far from a household name, which makes his inclusion in many Despicable Me promotions seem like a strange choice.
While supervillain Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, is Despicable Me's main character, his army of little yellow Minions have been the predominant focus of the advertising campaign, cropping up on everything from billboards to bench ads to TV shows like Last Comic Standing. In one promotional tie-in, Best Buy has been widely advertising a mobile application that will allow viewers to translate what the Minions are saying during the movie's end credits. All of this focus on the Minions has done a nice job selling the movie's more comedic aspects, though, as a result, the story of Gru adopting three orphan children has been comparatively given short shrift.
In Box Office Mojo's reader polling, 21.2 percent have voted to see Despicable Me in its opening weekend. Among similar titles, this is lower than Monsters Vs. Aliens or Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, though it's about the same as past Meledandri movies Horton Hears a Who! and Robots, which opened to $45 million and $36.1 million, respectively.
Predators marks the third attempt at a 1980s revival so far this summer, following The Karate Kid remake and The A-Team adaptation. The Karate Kid has thus far been a huge hit, grossing $157.5 million through Wednesday, while The A-Team has been comparatively weak with $71.6 million.
The Predator franchise got its start in June 1987 with Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Predator, which opened to $12 million and closed with $59.7 million, or the equivalent of around $121 million adjusted for ticket price inflation. Predators 2 hit theaters sans-Schwarzenegger three years later, and earned just $30.7 million ($57 million adjusted). The next time the Predator was seen on the big screen was in 2004 with Alien Vs. Predator, which grossed a respectable $80.3 million. Released Christmas Day 2007, Aliens Vs. Predator - Requiem wasn't as impressive, scoring $41.8 million.
While recent Predator movies have been lacking in both earnings and perceived quality, a significant portion of adult males still look back fondly on the Schwarzenegger original. This strong brand recognition makes it somewhat surprising that distributor 20th Century Fox has run such a low-key marketing campaign for Predators. Posters and billboards are nowhere to be found, and commercials just started running a few weeks ago. At least the sparse promotion has been of reasonably high quality. After putting producer Robert Rodriguez's name front-and-center, commercials showcase a diverse group of warriors battling a host of Predators, while the tagline ("They are the most dangerous killers in the world, but this is not their world") clearly sells the movie's premise.
Box Office Mojo reader interest is at a relatively unimpressive level for its genre, with 25.2 percent of voters indicating they will see the movie opening weekend. While this is above Aliens Vs. Predator - Requiem (23.4 percent), it's lower than Alien Vs. Predator (32.3 percent). It's also off from The A-Team's 30.1 percent.
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This Timeframe in Past Years:
• 2009 - 'Bruno' Not as Brawny as 'Borat'
• 2008 - 'Hellboy II' Sizzles
• 2007 - 'Harry Potter' Flies with the 'Phoenix'
• 2006 - 'Pirates' Raid Record Books
• 2005 - 'Fantastic Four' Heats Up the Summer Box Office
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