Weekend Box Office: Despicable Me , Predators , and Kids Are All Right Open Well as Holdovers Thrive

07/11/2010 05:47 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It was an 'everybody wins!' weekend at the box office, as the openers all performed at or above expectations and the holdovers didn't quite crash as badly as expected. First off, Universal scored its first probable domestic blockbuster since The Bourne Ultimatum three years ago, and its first animation smash since, I dunno, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, with Despicable Me. Opening with $56.3 million, the film had the sixteenth-largest opening weekend for an animated feature ever. It is the tenth-largest opening for a non-sequel cartoon, with six of those openings coming from Pixar alone. Say what you will about the 3-D price-bump, but this is nearly double the opening of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and about four times the opening weekend of Coraline. It is a case of almost instant profitability for the $69 million production.

Bolstered by rock-solid reviews, the film had saturation-level marketing and a multi-quadrant ad-campaign. The super villain vs. super villain narrative and celebrity casting appealed to older audiences, while the orphan children and little yellow henchmen (minions) worked like gangbusters to bring in the young kids. And, after weeks of 'you don't REALLY need to see this in 3-D' reviews for films both great (Toy Story 3) and terrible (The Last Airbender), the Despicable Me reviews emphasized that the 3-D was actually worth the surcharge this time around (ironically, only 45% of the tickets came from 3-D auditoriums). The film received an 'A' from Cinema Score and played 55% to kids under 12 and their parents. There has never been an animated film that grossed $200 million not released by Disney or Dreamworks. Despicable Me could be the first. Point being, this is going to be a massively profitable venture for Universal and a big win for their often-lambasted marketing department.

If Despicable Me was a lesson about smart budgeting (not every major animated film needs to cost $150-200 million), then Fox's Predators was a lesson in frugal, pinpoint marketing. While most moviegoers didn't even know this movie was even coming out until a week or two ago, Fox unleashed their targeted marketing campaign just a week before the release date, and the result was a $24.7 million opening weekend without the usual $50-100 million six-month marketing tsunami. Budgeted at just $38 million, the Robert Rodriguez-produced sequel capitalized on nostalgia for the 1987 original (not so much the LA-based 1990 sequel) as well as being a hard-R genre picture in a sea of PG-13 mass entertainment. Amusingly, the $25.3 million opening weekend is almost identical to the inflation-adjusted opening for the original Predator ($12 million in 1987, $24 million in 2010 dollars). I've said this over and over again, but all manner of films with all manner of ratings can exist and be profitable if you can budget reasonably and not spend the farm on marketing. After all, at the end of the day, most moviegoers decide what to see on Friday based on what trailers or posters they spotted on Wednesday or Thursday. The earlier stuff is generally aimed at the fans who were already planning on seeing said picture regardless.

In limited-release land, the Julianne Moore/Annette Bening/Mark Ruffalo drama The Kids are All Right had a scorching debut, grossing $491,971 on just seven screens. The $70,282 per-screen average is the 27th-biggest in history, as well as the second-largest for a film playing at seven or more screens (Precious pulled in $104,025 per screen on eighteen screens last November). The Girl Who Played With Fire grossed $904,998 on 110 screens, for a $8,380 per-screen debut. I personally thought this opening would be larger, as the prior entry The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo grossed $7 million during its Spring release. But the film has already pulled in $52 million worldwide, so no tears on this continent. Grease: Sing-Along Re-Issue pulled in $60,759 on twelve screens, so we'll see whether or not Paramount expands this experiment in the coming weeks. In a summer with several moderate indie breakouts such as I Am Love, Solitary Man, and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work), the two big indie success stories continued to expand. Cyrus expanded to 200 screens and entered the top ten with $1.28 million. The $7 million comedy has grossed $3.4 million thus far. The top-notch rural thriller Winter's Bone has now surpassed its $2 million budget, ending the weekend with $2.5 million thus far.

This article continues, with holdover news, a peak at next weekend, and more, at Mendelson's Memos.