'Despicable Me 4': Mega Minions bring mega bucks to holiday box office

Audiences are going bananas for Universal Pictures’ and Illumination’s “Despicable Me 4.”

The latest installment in the popular family film franchise opened to $27 million Wednesday at the domestic box office, according to estimates from a studio source and measurement firm Comscore. That number is expected to rise to roughly $120 million by the end of the Fourth of July weekend.

Other titles vying for moviegoers’ business this holiday stretch are Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” which grossed $7.3 million on Wednesday for a North American cumulative of $496.6 million; Paramount Pictures’ “A Quiet Place: Day One,” which scared up $4.4 million on Wednesday for a North American cumulative of $68.6 million; Sony Pictures’ “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” which earned $1.2 million on Wednesday for a North American cumulative of $169.1 million; and Warner Bros.’ “Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1,” which made $1.1 million on Wednesday for a North American cumulative of $14.8 million.

The promising start for “Despicable Me 4” is good news for exhibitors as the 2024 box office appears to be turning a corner thanks to some much-needed breakout hits such as “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” and “Inside Out 2.”

From directing team Chris Renaud and Patrick Delage, “Despicable Me 4” follows the not-so-nefarious Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), his resourceful daughters and his wacky minions on another daring mission to escape from a new nemesis. Rounding out the main voice cast are Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Madison Polan, Will Ferrell and Sofía Vergara.

The animated feature received a lackluster 55% rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, but pulled an A grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore — proving that fans still can’t get enough of Carell’s curmudgeonly antihero and his babbling yellow entourage.

Film critic Gary Goldstein was not so generous in his review for the Los Angeles Times, writing that “this latest installment of Illumination’s mega-grossing animated franchise jams in a grab-bag of physical and visual gags and anything-goes action, plus a barrage of narrative dead ends, subplots and characters, as it strains to fill its 90 or so minutes of eye-popping, brain-draining mayhem.”

“Despite a few chuckles, some capable voice work and plenty of splashy color,” he adds, “it proves a largely empty and exhausting ride.”

So what keeps audiences coming back to this critically soured saga?

The Times’ Samantha Masunaga reports that a perfect storm of organic social media phenomena (calling all #Gentleminions), Facebook mom memes and multigenerational nostalgia has kept the franchise relevant and lucrative over the past 14 years. “Despicable Me” debuted at $56.4 million domestically in 2010, “Despicable Me 2” launched at $83.5 million in 2013 and “Despicable Me 3” opened to $72.4 million in 2017, according to Box Office Mojo.

“I’ve been 25 to 28 years in the business. I can’t remember something that created that much excitement for the audiences,” Francisco Schlotterbeck, chief executive of theater chain Maya Cinemas, told The Times.

“The other thing I can compare it to is ‘Toy Story.’”

Coming to theaters Friday is the highly anticipated A24 horror flick “MaXXXine,” followed by the wide releases of Goldove Entertainment’s “Lumina,” Neon’s “Longlegs” and Columbia Pictures’ “Fly Me to the Moon” next weekend.

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