Box Office: ‘Minions 2’ Pushes ‘Despicable Me’ Movies Past $4 Billion

Universal and Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru earned another $13.57 million (-22.5% from its huge $17.5 million Tuesday gross), bringing its six-day domestic total to $154.1 million. It will, possibly by the end of this sentence, pass the $161 million domestic cume of Sing 2 to become the biggest animated grosser since Frozen II ($477 million) in late 2019. Oh, and it earned another $14.9 million overseas on Wednesday, bringing its foreign box office cume to $134.6 million. That’s just 11% below the running total for Minions at this point in its run in the summer of 2015, and is 2% above Despicable Me 3 early in its July 2017 theatrical release.

The film has now earned $288.8 million worldwide on an $80 million budget as it passes $300 million worldwide by, again, the end of this sentence. But wait, there’s more. Minions: The Rise of Gru is a sequel to Minions and a prequel to the first Despicable Me. Whether the world needed such connective tissue (grumble-Obi-Wan Kenobi-grumble), audiences are showing up for this specific franchise. Whether you count Minions as a straight-up spin-off or just another installment in the grand brand (just as Hobbs & Shaw still counts as a Fast Saga flick), the five-movie series has now passed $4 billion in unadjusted worldwide grosses on a combined $374 million budget.

That includes Despicable Me ($544 million in 2010), Despicable Me 2 ($975 million in 2013), Minions ($1.168 billion in 2015) and Despicable Me 3 ($1.035 billion in 2017). Illumination’s marquee franchise is the biggest-grossing animated series in global earnings and the most profitable “rate of return” animated franchise. It has passed Shrek ($3.5 billion over five films, including Puss in Boots, on a combined $575 million budget) and Ice Age ($3.2 billion over five films on a combined $430 million budget). It has towered over Madagascar ($2.27 billion over four films, including Penguins of Madagascar, on a combined $502 million budget) and Toy Story ($3.055 billion over four films on a combined $520 million budget). I’m not counting Lightyear because I’m not a monster.

Presuming Minions 2 nabs another $500 million and ends up with “only” $800 million worldwide (and that’s a willful underestimate), it’ll have earned around 12x its respective production budgets. Once it passes $410 million this weekend, it’ll top Sing 2 as the biggest “Covid-era” animated release. As we’ve seen with No Time to Die, Uncharted, and a deluge of other best-case-scenario performers, we’ve been out of Covid-era box office for tentpoles since A Quiet Place part II. The softer-than-hoped theatrical performances of Raya and the Last Dragon ($133 million), Encanto ($255 million) and now Lightyear (a likely over/under $250 million finish) aren’t about Covid-era variables. Kids and families will show up for the “right” movie.

Sing 2, The Bad Guys ($244 million-and-counting on an $80 million budget) and Minions: The Rise of Gru all pulled as-expected (or best-case-scenario) business despite the first two concurrently existing on PVOD for most of their theatrical runs. There’s something that’s working for Universal’s theatrical toons (relative to budget and quality notwithstanding) that isn’t working for Disney’s recent slate. Comcast’s bosses seemingly want their movies to succeed theatrically, while Disney’s CEO would evidently prefer less-tangible streaming glory. However, I’d wager that Turning Red was more “the right movie” than Lightyear. Let’s hope that Strange World also fits the bill. But for now, Illumination has displaced Disney as the commercial king of the animation mountain.

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