Animation Set to Reign Again as 'Secret Life of Pets' Eyes $80+ Million Opening
SATURDAY AM UPDATE: Illumination and Universal's The Secret Life of Pets is off to a blistering start, bringing in an estimated $38.3 million on Friday, pushing toward a $95+ million opening that could easily top $100 million. Inside Out brought in $34.2 million on Friday before opening with $90.4 million and Toy Story 3 kicked off its $110.3 million opening with $41.1 million on Friday. Inside Out is currently the record holder for the largest opening weekend for a non-sequel or franchise based animated property and Secret Life of Pets is looking to top that with relative ease.

The weekend's other new wide opener is Fox's Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, which brought in an estimated $6.65 million on Friday, which could result in an opening weekend around $16-17 million. Comparatively, The Wedding Ringer brought in $6.9 million on Friday and went on to gross just over $20 million and Sex Tape brought in $5.6 million on Friday before opening with $14.6 million.

Finally, Yash Raj's Sultan starring Salman Khan finds its way into the top ten with an estimated $680,000 from 287 theaters after opening on Wednesday, heading toward a three-day weekend around $1.8 million.

You can find our chart of Friday's estimates right here and we'll be back Sunday morning with a complete wrap-up of the weekend. Take a look at Mojo's weekend preview below.

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: Thursday previews are in and both of this weekend's new releases are off to solid starts. Illumination and Universal's The Secret Life of Pets brought in a massive $5.33 million, the third largest Thursday preview session ever for an animated feature behind only Finding Dory ($9.2m) and Minions ($6.2m) and ahead of Illumination's own Despicable Me 2 ($4.7m) which opened with $83.5 million back in 2013. The film is looking at a massive weekend that could push even higher than Mojo's forecasted $85 million. Previews began at 6PM in 3,009 theaters, the film begins playing in a record-breaking 4,369 theaters today, the largest opening ever for an animated feature.

Fox's Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates also had a strong Thursday night session, delivering $1.6 million from approximately 2,560 theaters. This is an improvement over the $660,000 Dirty Grandpa delivered on Thursday night earlier this year and just behind the $1.67 million Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising brought in back in May before opening with $21.7 million. Thursday's numbers suggest Mike and Dave is already on its way to surging past Mojo's forecast below as an opening over $15 million seems a strong possibility at this point if not higher.

You can check out our full weekend preview below and we'll be back tomorrow morning with a look at Friday estimates.

WEEKEND PREVIEW: So far, four of the top ten domestic releases of 2016 are animated films. Two of those four belong to Disney, which has seen Zootopia and Finding Dory combine for more than $737 million, the latter of which just finished three straight weekends atop the box office and will soon become the highest grossing domestic release of 2016. This weekend is looking great for animation once again as Dory will add another $20+ million to its bottom line and Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures deliver the heavily marketed The Secret Life of Pets, soon to become the latest animated contender to don the weekend box office crown.

The Secret Life of Pets is the first of two animated films Illumination and Universal will be releasing this year. This is Illumination's fifth fully-animated feature length film and it will debut in a record-setting 4,369 theaters, the widest animated opening of all-time. At the beginning of the week tracking suggested an opening ahead of the $56.4 million brought in by Despicable Me, which would give the studio their largest debut for an original release, since then expectations have sky-rocketed.

This weekend on the yearly calendar is one that's familiar to Illumination as it's the same weekend they released Despicable Me to a #1 finish back in 2010 and just last year they scored a $115.7 million debut with Minions. Minions, of course, was part of an already established property whereas opening an original property takes a bit more effort. Thus the reason for the massive, year-long marketing campaign for Secret Life of Pets which has included the Puppy Bowl, Super Bowl, Westminster Dog Show, McDonald's, PetSmart, General Mills, Stanley Cup Playoffs and the NBA playoffs... just to name a few.

So, can Pets deliver the largest opening for an original, animated property? The largest such opening is the $90.4 million Inside Out brought in last year followed by Zootopia's $75 million opening this year and at this time an opening north of $75 million seems almost a foregone conclusion.

Online ticket retailer is reporting ticket sales ahead of Zootopia at the same point in the sales cycle and IMDb traffic data is showing the same trend. Working against Pets, however, is the fact Finding Dory is still looking to take $23+ million in its fourth weekend. The two films obviously share an audience and Dory could be the #1 reason Pets is unable to climb as high as Inside Out's $90+ million opening.

Overall, the range for Pets currently looks to be an opening around $82-88 million. A safe prediction is right in the middle with $85 million, give or take a few million on either side, and in the same vicinity of the $83.5 million opening for Illumination's Despicable Me 2 a couple years ago.

Also opening this weekend is the R-rated comedy Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates from 20th Century Fox. The film stars Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Adam DeVine and Aubrey Plaza and is set to premiere in 2,978 theaters. This is the third R-rated comedy Efron has starred in this year after Dirty Grandpa in January and Neighbors 2 in mid-May.

Budgeted at $33 million, the film is looking at an opening around $11+ million, similar to the opening for Efron's Dirty Grandpa back in January. While still considered "rotten" at RottenTomatoes, early reviews for Mike and Dave are an improvement over the 11% earned by Dirty Grandpa as well as Efron's That Awkward Moment. The big question when it comes to this film is to wonder just how much the draw is Efron versus the rest of the cast.

Outside of the Neighbors films, of which the sequel drastically underperformed compared to its predecessor, Efron's films have not exactly opened well—Dirty Grandpa ($11.1m), We are Your Friends ($1.7m), That Awkward Moment ($8.7m)—and reviews haven't been all that great either with We are Your Friends receiving the best RottenTomatoes rating of the three at a mere 40%. So, does the combination of Efron, Devine, Kendrick and Plaza up the ante? Heading into the weekend an opening around $11-13 million looks like the best bet, but if early audiences take to it it could pop a little higher.

As for last weekend's openers, The Legend of Tarzan is one to keep an eye after an opening well above expectations. A drop over 50% is to be expected for a weekend around $15-18 million. The "A-" CinemaScore gives the film some measure of hope as does the IMDb rating of 7.1, which has held rather steady over the past few days, dropping only slightly as more grades have come in.

A drop over 60% is likely for The Purge: Election Year, as has been the trend for its two predecessors and due to the extended opening weekend. A second weekend around $10.5 million is a good bet.

As for Steven Spielberg's The BFG, the lackluster opening is an obvious cause for concern, especially with a new family film entering the landscape. A second weekend drop around 41-48% and an overall three-day of $9-11 million is a safe expectation and there is a chance for it to hold a bit higher as it has held on well over the course of the week.

In limited release, Bleecker Street will release Captain Fantastic starring Viggo Mortensen into four theaters; Yash Raj released Sultan on Wednesday into 287 theaters; and Sony Classics will release Our Little Sister into three theaters.

This weekend's forecast is directly below. This post will be updated on Friday morning with Thursday night preview results followed by Friday estimates on Saturday morning, and a complete weekend recap on Sunday morning.

  • The Secret Life of Pets (4,369 theaters) - $85 M
  • Finding Dory (3,871 theaters) - $23.4 M
  • The Legend of Tarzan (3,591 theaters) - $17.7 M
  • Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2,982 theaters) - $11.5 M
  • The BFG (3,392 theaters) - $11.1 M
  • The Purge: Election Year (2,820 theaters) - $10.6 M
  • Independence Day: Resurgence (3,061 theaters) - $8 M
  • Central Intelligence (2,841 theaters) - $7.4 M
  • The Shallows (2,406 theaters) - $3.5 M
  • The Conjuring 2 (1,052 theaters) - $2.1 M

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