Gru and his army of Minions may appear to be ruthless villains in constant pursuit of world domination, but that didn't stop audiences from showing Despicable Me some serious love at the box office. The weekend's other new release Predators was far behind, though it still performed admirably compared to past entries in the franchise. Holdovers The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Toy Story 3 continued to play well, while The Last Airbender had a considerable drop-off. The Top 12 was up 36 percent from the same timeframe last year, when Bruno led with $30.6 million.
Despicable Me raked in $56.4 million on around 5,200 screens at 3,476 theaters. While this number fell short of the openings ofg the summer's other 3D animated features Toy Story 3 and Shrek Forever After, it was still mighty considering Despicable Me had no built-in audience. In fact, it was the third biggest-grossing opening ever for a non-sequel, non-adaptation, non-Pixar animated movie behind Kung Fu Panda and Monsters Vs. Aliens. Despicable Me is the first release in a distribution deal between Universal Pictures and new animation company Illumination Entertainment, founded by former Fox Animation president Chris Meledandri. The movie couldn't have come at a better time for Universal, which hasn't had a bonafide hit yet this year, and Despicable Me's opening is the best for a Universal movie since Fast and Furious opened to $71 million in April 2009.
Making Despicable Me's success even more remarkable was the comparatively small role 3D had in its grosses. Approximately 45 percent of the movie's earnings came from the 1,551 premium-priced locations, which was substantially lower than any of the other 3D animated releases this year. It's worth noting though, that those movies all debuted on more 3D screens. A better comparison is Monsters Vs. Aliens, which had a 56 percent share from 1,550 3D locations in its debut. According to Universal's exit polling, 55 percent of Despicable Me's audience was kids 12 years and under with their parents, and it scored a solid "A" from moviegoer pollster Cinemascore.
In its second weekend, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse was off 51 percent to $31.7 million. This was a much better hold than predecessors Twilight and New Moon, which dropped 62 and 70 percent, respectively. With Eclipse burning off a lot of demand with its Wednesday opening and then spreading out its first weekend over a four-day frame, this comparatively lighter drop was to be expected. Through its first 12 days, Eclipse has grossed $235.4 million, which was only slightly behind New Moon through the same point.
While it settled for third place, Predators opened to a respectable $24.8 million on around 3,300 screens at 2,669 theaters. This is the second highest-grossing start for a Predator movie behind Alien Vs. Predator, though the addition of the Alien brand surely aided in that movie's grosses. Predators also drew about the same estimated initial attendance as the first Predator, though that picture was relatively more impactful in its day. Excluding The Village and King Kong, which were sold primarily on their high-profile directors, Predators was easily star Adrien Brody's best opening ever. It's also the best start for a Robert Rodriguez-produced feature since Spy Kids 3D: Game Over in 2003.
In spite of its solid numbers, Predators marked the third straight sub-$30 million start for a 20th Century Fox action movie this summer, following The A-Team and Knight & Day. Since genre movies like Predators tend to be very front-loaded, it's doubtful that this movie will ultimately do much to salvage Fox's mediocre summer. Fox's research indicated that 70 percent of Predators' audience was male, and 60 percent was over 25 years old.
After getting off to a great start last weekend, The Last Airbender fell 59 percent to $16.6 million. It's expected to cross the $100 million mark today to become the fourth M. Night Shyamalan movie to reach this level. Down just 17 percent to $15.8 million, Grown Ups also crossed the $100 million threshold. It's the 11th Adam Sandler movie in the past 12 years to reach this level, and no other actor has had that many live-action $100 million movies in that timeframe.