The minions of Despicable Me 2 have run away with the July 4 weekend box office in the US, leaving the Johnny Depp Western The Lone Ranger in the dust.
According to studio estimates, the Universal animated sequel took in 82.5 million US dollars over the weekend and 142.1 million across the five-day holiday window.
Gore Verbinski's reimagining of the iconic lawman bombed for the Walt Disney Co, opening with just 29.4 million dollars over the weekend, and a disappointing 48.9 million since July 3, Hollywood.com reported.
The trouncing for Disney was especially painful because of the high cost of The Lone Ranger, which reportedly cost at least 225 million dollars to make. Made by the same team that created the lucrative Disney franchise Pirates of the Caribbean (the four film series that grossed 3.7 billion dollars worldwide) the Western drew bad reviews and failed to capture the attention of younger moviegoers.
"We thought it would appeal to a broader audience than it did," Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney, said.
Based on the long-running radio programme begun in 1933 and the TV series that debuted in 1949, the Lone Ranger brand proved a musty one. The audience for the film skewed heavily toward older moviegoers, with 68 per cent of its audience older than 25.
The poor performance of The Lone Ranger called to mind a previous bomb for Disney: last year's similarly-budgeted science-fiction adventure John Carter, which opened with 30.1 million dollars.
But The Lone Ranger, which stars Armie Hammer as the masked lawman, will likely fare better than that disappointment, since Depp's international star power should bring in better worldwide business. It started with 24.3 million dollars abroad, opening in about 30 per cent of its planned international market.
On the other hand, Universal made Despicable Me 2 for the comparatively small amount of 76 million dollars (a figure that doesn't count a huge marketing budget). The better than expected haul (along with another 88.8 million overseas) establishes Despicable Me, which stars Steve Carell as a diabolical villain turned stay-at-home dad, as a new franchise for Universal and Chris Meledandri's Illumination Entertainment, the Universal-backed animation company.
Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal, attributed the strong performance to Meledandri, the robust appetite for summer family films, and, above all, those teaming little yellow guys. The minions will get their own spin-off in 2014, and Rocco said another Despicable Me film is a certainty. "The minions steal everybody's heart," Rocco said. "It's a great time of the year to release a family film with broad appeal."