Universal and Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru, starring Steve Carell and Pierre Coffin, debuted two years behind schedule, becoming the last of the “was supposed to open in 2020” movies to debut either in theaters or on streaming. The second-to-last such “big” films were both Bob’s Burgers the Movie and Top Gun: Maverick, which both opened this past Memorial Day. Top Gun 2 was supposed to open a week before Minions 2 in the summer of 2020, and now there’s a halfway decent chance that they will end up being the two biggest global grossers of the summer. Top Gun: Maverick has thus far earned over $570 million domestic and $1.1 billion worldwide. And now Minions 2 opened with a record-setting Independence Day holiday haul of $127.9 million.
That includes $108.5 million over the Fri-Sun part (above Transformers: Dark of the Moon’s $97 million Fri-Sun debut amid a $180 million Wed-Mon launch in 2011) and a Fri-Mon gross above Transformers 3’s $115 million Fri-Mon frame. I think we can mostly conclude that the so-called Covid-era of box office analysis has ended. We’ve discussed in worried tones over the last two years as shut-in families and older audiences have become even more used to watching shows and movies at home. Top Gun: Maverick shattered the Memorial Day weekend record while Minions: The Rise of Gru just broke the Independence Day record. All due respect to Shang-Chi’s $94 million Labor Day debut, but these were not holidays which was otherwise lacking in tentpole openers.
As I’ve said since A Quiet Place part II opened with $57 million over the Fri-Mon Memorial Day weekend in 2021, the films that were going to be big hits before Covid have, give or take a few relative underperformers (Jungle Cruise and Death on the Nile likely would have been bigger), mostly earned business comparable to pre-Covid expectations (Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Venom 2, Halloween Kills, No Time to Die, etc.) or far above pre-Covid expectations (Godzilla Vs. Kong, Uncharted, Free Guy, Top Gun: Maverick, etc.). Snake Eyes was always going to bomb, Space Jam: A New Legacy and The Suicide Squad were always too expensive and Lightyear was always a coin toss in terms of breaking out or becoming another Solo: A Star Wars Story.
A moment of silence for Tenet (whose $366 million global finish was aspirational until October of 2021) and Wonder Woman 1984, both of which sacrificed almost surefire theatrical success so that others could flourish. I could make a grim Walk Hard joke about Wonder Woman 1984 earning $168 million and The Batman earning $770 million, but in a sane world they both would have cracked $700 million global. Anyway, Minions: The Rise of Gru opened essentially on par with the $115 million debut of Minions from back in 2015 and well above the $99 million Fri-Tues debut of Despicable Me 3 in 2017. Both films cracked $1 billion worldwide and now I’m inclined to think Minions 2 will give it a go as well.
This is a huge win for Universal, their prized Illumination brand and that brand’s prized franchise. The 1970’s-set ode to Blaxploitation and Asian-centric martial arts actioners earned decent reviews, with even most pans assuring audiences that, yes, it’s a Minions movie, and an A from Cinemascore. While Minions was slightly frontloaded for an Illumination flick ($336 million from a $115 million debut), I’m sure Universal won’t mourn if both Jurassic World Dominion and Minions: The Rise of Gru only end up just over $350 million domestic and $900 million-to-$1 billion worldwide. Minions 2 only cost $80 million, so even Sing 2 ($407 million) grosses would have been quite profitable.
With $202 million worldwide, it’s clear that the Minions franchise is A) as popular as ever and B) a rare example of a spin-off that surpasses the original. Think X-Men and Deadpool. We saw videos online of young men showing up to Minions: The Rise of Gru in business suits, and while I don’t think Tik-Tok games made the difference between an $88 million debut and a $128 million debut, the good-natured foolishness is a prime example of what happens when studios give kids their own pop culture icons rather than regurgitating blockbusters and IP of generations past. On a related note, Stranger Things season four is going to be the first Netflix show to notch over one billion hours in the first 28 days.