Box office preview: ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ hopes for victory over 4th of July weekend

With the 4th of July taking place on Monday, Universal is using the holiday weekend and the fact that school are out across the country to release the latest installment of its most popular animated franchise. “Minions: The Rise of Gru” is a prequel to the “Despicable Me” movies but also a sequel to 2015’s hit prequel “Minions,” which showed how the lovable evil henchmen came into being. “Rise of Gru” shows the early days of the Minions working with the villainous Gru as a child,  once again voiced by Steve Carell. Read on for our box office preview.

Gru was introduced all the way back in 2010 in “Despicable Me,” one of the early collaborations between Universal and animation house Illumination Entertainment. It opened with $56.4 million in the weekend following 4th of July, and it went on to gross $251.5 million domestically and made about that same amount overseas. Three years later, Universal released “Despicable Me 2” to $143 million in five days after opening on the 4th of July. That went on to gross $368 million domestically and made nearly a billion worldwide.

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That also paved the way for 2015’s “Minions” prequel, which opened with $115.7 million, and that made more than a billion worldwide, though mad slightly less domestically. 2017’s “Despicable Me 3,” which shifted the focus back to Carell’s Gru, opened with $72.4 million and also hit a billion worldwide,” but only made $264 million in North America.

It’s an interesting paradigm to see a movie get so big so fast and then have multiple hit sequels and spin-offs, only to possibly squander the affection for the characters by overdoing things and releasing too much content. Granted, it’s been five years since the last “Despicable Me” sequel, but that’s also five years for families to forget how much they love those Minions. Fortunately, the lovable buggers continue to do adorable and hilarious antics in the trailers and commercials that will get kids excited to see “Rise of Gru.” With the COVID vaccine rolling out to the under-5 crowd, there’s a better chance of families with small kids going to see this, especially since it won’t be put to the Uni streamer, Peacock, at the same time.

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For comparison, we also should look at movies like DreamWorks Animation’s “The Penguins of Madagascar,” a spin-off to a successful animated trilogy that focused on the penguin characters from the “Madagascar” movies. That opened with a terrible $25.4 million over the Thanksgiving weekend, quite a blow following three movies that grossed over $180 million in North America each and significantly more overseas.

At the time of this writing, “The Rise of Gru” is at 70% on RottenTomatoes, about the same as Pixar’s “Lightyear,” a highly touted prequel that ended up disappointing with just $50 million its opening weekend. It’s still early but that’s currently doing better than both “Minions” and “Depicable Me 3,” both which had mixed reviews, at best.

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” should take full advantage of the 4th of July holiday once again to make upwards of $70 to 80 million, maybe more including the Monday holiday, for an easy first place win this weekend. It then has a couple more days to rack up money before Marvel Studios’ “Thor: Love and Thunder” takes over in first place for the next couple weeks.

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We’ll have to wait and see if A24 expands its release of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes” this weekend or waits until July 15, but IFC will expand its Spanish comedy “Official Competition,” starring Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, nationwide this Friday, which could be enough to get it into the top 10 with so few movies making more than a million.

Likewise, Bleecker Street is looking to release its period rom-com “Mr. Malcolm’s List” into around 1,300 theaters on Friday, and it won’t really need to make that much to also be able to get into the top 10 with roughly $500,000.

Check back on Sunday to see how these movies did in an increasingly busier box office, and don’t forget to play Gold Derby’s box office prediction game.

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