Weekend Report: 'Despicable' Defeats 'Ranger' Over Busy Fourth of July
Over a very busy Fourth of July weekend, Despicable Me 2 had one of the best debuts ever for an animated movie, while The Lone Ranger got off to an underwhelming start. Meanwhile, Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain crushed expectations and did fantastic business for a stand-up movie.

For the three-day weekend, the Top 12 earned $221.6 million. That ranks 10th all-time, and is the third weekend in the last four to rank in the Top 15.

Through its first five days, Despicable Me 2 earned $143.1 million. That's just ahead of Toy Story 3 ($141 million) for top five-day start ever for an animated movie; while the differing release patterns keeps that from being a true apples-to-apples comparison, it still does give a good idea how immensely popular the sequel was over the holiday weekend.

For the three-day period, Despicable Me 2 earned $83.5 million, which is on par with Monsters University's debut a few weeks ago. It's also way higher than the 2010 original's $56.4 million opening.

Despicable Me 2's marketing campaign was geared around driving awareness without really differentiating the product much. Advertisements used the "Guess who's back" line from the Eminem song "Without Me" (odd choice for a family movie), and showcased the same kind of Minion antics that made the first movie so popular. Typically, sequels suffer if the marketing doesn't present anything new; by bucking that trend, Despicable Me 2 demonstrated just how strong the Despicable brand is.

The movie's audience was 60 percent female and 55 percent under the age of 25. They awarded the movie an "A" CinemaScore, which suggests word-of-mouth will be good. Ultimately, Despicable Me 2 should have no problem earning over $300 million, and if it holds up like Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (the last animated sequel to open over the Fourth of July), it could get past $400 million.

In second place, The Lone Ranger took in $48.7 million in its first five days. Among other expensive Westerns, that start is a bit above Cowboys & Aliens ($45 million) and Wild Wild West ($41 million), though Cowboys didn't have the Fourth of July boost and Wild Wild West opened 14 years ago.

The Lone Ranger was billed as "from the team that brought you Pirates of the Caribbean," but its opening doesn't compare favorably: the original Pirates movie also opened on a Wednesday and had taken in over $70 million through Sunday. Adjusted for ten years of ticket price inflation, that debut translates to around $93 million.

For the Western genre, The Lone Ranger did have a good opening; unfortunately, that's a very, very low bar. With a budget over $200 million, Disney surely hoped The Lone Ranger would transcend its genre limitations, which is what Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl managed to do back in 2003. However, when Pirates opened, Johnny Depp's portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow seemed fresh and exciting; after a decade of playing similarly wacky characters, his portrayal of Tonto in The Lone Ranger just felt like more of the same.

While the original Pirates movie opened well, its ultimate success came from fantastic word-of-mouth. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like The Lone Ranger will experience a similar bump: its "B+" CinemaScore and awful 25 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes suggests that it will perform similar to other major Summer movies (as in, fall off quickly from opening weekend). In the long term, a total over $100 million is likely, though it won't go too much higher than that.

One slight positive for The Lone Ranger: its audience skewed older (68 percent over the age of 25) and male (57 percent), which is a group that usually doesn't rush out to movie theaters.

In third place, Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy comedy The Heat eased 37 percent to $24.8 million. In comparison, Ted fell 41 percent at the exact same point last year. The Heat has now earned $86.3 million; if it plays out like Ted for the remainder of its run, it will ultimately earn over $160 million.

Facing tough, direct competition from Despicable Me 2, Monsters University plummeted 57 percent to $19.7 million. The animated prequel has so far grossed $216.3 million, which makes it the 11th Pixar movie to pass $200 million; unfortunately, it now looks like it won't ultimately reach $300 million.

World War Z rounded out the Top Five with $18.4 million, which is off a very light 38 percent from last weekend. With $159 million in the bank so far, it now looks like this surprise hit could close with around $200 million.

After a disappointing debut last weekend, White House Down fell 46 percent to $13.5 million this weekend. To date, it's earned a weak $50.5 million, and ultimately won't come close to matching Olympus Has Fallen's $98.9 million.

In its fourth outing, Man of Steel dipped 45 percent to $11.4 million. It's now grossed $271.2 million, and is still in the hunt for $300 million total.

Since opening at 876 locations on Wednesday, Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain has earned $17.4 million. It's already the fifth-highest-grossing stand-up comedy movie ever, and has also already earned twice as much as Hart's last stand-up movie, Laugh at My Pain, earned in 2011. Clearly, Hart has become a major draw; next year, he's got starring roles lined up in Ride Along and the About Last Night remake, both of which should benefit from his appeal.

The audience was 55 percent female and 54 percent were 25 years of age or older, and they gave the movie a very good "A" CinemaScore. This is the second surprise win for distributor Lionsgate/Summit this Summer following May's Now You See Me ($110 million and counting).

In limited release, Fox Searchlight opened Sundance hit The Way, Way Back at 19 theaters, where it earned $552,788. That translates to a per-theater average of $29,094; in comparison, Little Miss Sunshine averaged $53,000 at seven locations in its opening. Searchlight plans to expand the movie to around 75 more theaters next weekend ahead of a nationwide debut on July 26th.

Around-the-World Roundup

Aside from its great opening at the domestic box office, Despicable Me 2 also played well overseas this weekend. The movie grossed $88.8 million in 45 markets for an early total of $151.1 million.

It debuted in first place in Mexico ($15.8 million), Brazil ($6.7 million), Germany ($6.2 million) and Spain ($3.3 million). It was also in second place in France with a strong $7 million.

According to Universal, the movie is currently performing twice as strong as the original Despicable Me across the same bucket of territories. That movie earned over $291 million overseas, which suggests Despicable Me 2 could ultimately wind up around $500 million.

World War Z continued its strong foreign run this weekend by adding $45.2 million in 54 markets. Its only major opening came in France, where it took first place with an excellent $7.8 million. To date, World War Z has earned $207.4 million; with Japan and Spain (and probably China) on the way later this year, a final tally north of $300 million seems like a guarantee.

Currently playing in 62 percent of the overseas marketplace, Monsters University grossed $29.5 million this weekend for a total of $184.4 million. In the process, it became the 12th-straight Pixar movie to pass $400 million worldwide. Next weekend, Monsters U expands in to France and the U.K. Meanwhile, Disney's The Lone Ranger opened to $29.4 million from 30 percent of the international market.

Man of Steel earned an estimated $21.3 million from 62 markets this weekend. To date, it's earned $315.6 million, and will get close to $400 million after it reaches Brazil (this weekend) and Japan (end of August).

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'Despicable 2' Set to Destroy 4th of July Weekend

This Weekend in Past Years:

• 2012 - 'Spider-Man' Swings High But Falls Short of Predecessors

• 2011 - 'Transformers' Claims Independence Gross Record• 2010 - 'Eclipse' Swoons But Sweeps Up Over Independence Day

• 2009 - 'Tranformers' Fends Off 'Ice Age' in Close Independence Weekend

• 2007 - Moviegoers Spark to 'Transformers'

• 2006 - 'Pirates' Raid Record Books

• 2005 - 'War of the Worlds' Booms on Independence Day

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