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Why ‘Despicable Me 3’ Dipped Below Box Office Expectations and ‘Baby Driver’ Exceeded Them

The studios should take more bets on modest bets like "Baby Driver," which destroyed tired Will Ferrell/Amy Poehler comedy "The House."

“Despicable Me 3”

Despicable Me 3” (Universal) at $75.4 million provided close to half of the Top Ten total of $161 million. That’s an impressive achievement. But the the latest Illumination animated offering came in considerably below the expected total of $90 million. And yet again the domestic total is out of step with strong international results.

On the other hand, Edgar Wright’s second-ranked “Baby Driver” (Sony) performed better than expected ($21 million for the weekend, $30 million since its Wednesday opening). Chalk up its initial success to comedy counterprogramming, strong reviews, and perhaps more than anything a desire for something different and not the safe, cookie-cutter formula core of most summer franchise releases.

For example, “The House” (Warner Bros.), a standard-issue Will Farrell/Amy Poehler studio comedy, ranked sixth with a tepid $9 million gross. It’s another mid-level flop.

The Beguiled” (Focus) entered the Top Ten in still limited play, with “The Big Sick” (Lionsgate) waiting in the wings to join it soon. More on these and others in our specialized report.

Top Ten Chart

1. Despicable Me 3 (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 48; est. budget: $75 million

$75,410,00 in 4,259 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $16,651; Cumulative: $75,400,000

2. Baby Driver (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 86; est. budget: $34 million

$21,000,000 in 3,226 theaters; PTA: $6,510; Cumulative: $30,029,000

3. Transformers: The Last Knight (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$17,000,000 (-62%) in 4,132 theaters (+63); PTA: $4,114; Cumulative: $102,103,000

4. Wonder Woman (Warner Bros.) Week 5; Last weekend #2

$16,100,000 (-35%) in 3,404 theaters (-529); PTA: $4,730; Cumulative: $346,644,000

5. Cars 3 (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #3

$9,524,000 (-60%) in 3,576 theaters (-680); PTA: $2,663; Cumulative: $120,714,000

6. The House (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Metacritic: 31; est. budget: $40 million

$9,000,000 in 3,134 theaters; PTA: $2,872; Cumulative: $9,000,000

7. 47 Meters Down (Entertainment Studios) Week 3; Last weekend #4

$4,680,000 (-34%) in 2,250 theaters (-221); PTA: $2,081; Cumulative: $32,600,000

8. The Beguiled (Focus) Week 2; Last weekend #22

$3,260,000 (+1,322%) in 674 theaters (+670); PTA: $4,836; Cumulative: $3,579,000

9. The Mummy (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #5

$2,785,000 (-54%) in 1,760 theaters (-1,112); PTA: $1,583; Cumulative: $74,502,000

10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Disney) Week 6; Last weekend #7

$2,411,000 (-55%) in 1,674 theaters (-682); PTA: $1,440; Cumulative: $165,467,000

Baby (ANSEL ELGORT) is chased by the cops in TriStar Pictures' BABY DRIVER.

“Baby Driver”

Wilson Webb

The Takeaways

2017 Falls Below 2016

Grosses were predicted to stabilize this weekend with a possible match of last year’s totals (which to be fair included an elevated Sunday, with the 4th falling on Monday). Instead they fell $19 million (just under ten per cent) despite this year’s #1 gross doubling last year’s top opener “The Legend of Tarzan.”

So for the first time in months (about the time “Beauty and the Beast” opened) the year now is down slightly from 2016 in domestic grosses. It could be temporary — “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Sony) has next weekend to itself. But even if it scores a $100 million start, that would fall short of “The Secret Life of Pets” last year and the results could still lag.

Yes, it’s encouraging that “Baby Driver” exceeded expectations, and “Wonder Woman” continues to thrive. But most other gauges — the weak opening for “The House,” most of the other holdovers — reflect a tepid market.

despicable me 3

Hardly “Despicable” But Not Up to Past Minions Results

Counting the 2015 prequel “Minions” among the group, the latest “Despicable Me” entry is way off its two recent predecessors. “Minions” opened to an unadjusted $115 million, playing off the brand with the plus of some variation to the formula to add to its appeal. The second entry in 2013 did $83 million (again lower than what it would have done in 2017) — but that came after a two-day figure of $59 million with a Wednesday July 3 opening.

That’s a big drop. Illumination’s latest did open better than Pixar, the gold standard in the genre, did with “Cars 3” two weeks ago. Its foreign take is at or better than its predecessors. It’s at $117 million overseas (second weekend at some), with major territories including China yet to open (in fact six of the ten biggest are yet to come).

That’s terrific for Universal, which continues to keep its costs down for these efforts ($75 million). But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that animation is also feeling the current malaise over same-old genres infecting much of the domestic market.

“The House”

”Baby Driver” – All Signs Positive So Far, & It Breaks “The House”

Comedies are no longer the summer staple they once were (international appeal a major factor – http://www.indiewire.com/2017/06/baby-driver-edgar-white-box-office-get-out-comedy-sony-1201848143/). So it is weird to see two open the same weekend.

“The House” on paper might have seemed the more likely to succeed. Will Ferrell’s last five live-action non-ensemble lead role films have all opened well over $25 million. Even a minor outing like “The Campaign” in the dog days of summer 2013 had a $26 million debut.

Ferrell has run a smart career, reinventing himself with fresh co-stars. This time its Amy Poehler, whose biggest film success (live-action at least) was “Sisters.”

Its failure comes due to timing (it faced a much stronger comedy), lack of reviews (it was lambasted) but mainly seems to have suffered from a lackluster concept (to pay for his daughter’s college, he sets up an illegal casino in his basement) and lack of female appeal at the same time the better received comedy reached out to young males. And perhaps Ferrell is just tired at this point.

“Baby Driver” was low-balled by Sony in their table-setting for the film. The reality is with its strong cast, great reviews, smart marketing and a mid-week release aimed at pushing good reaction going into the weekend, it did what it really should have. That’s no small feat these days, but not a game-changer. “Get Out,” with similar reviews, less cast draw, a trickier concept (horror/comedy/social issue hybrid) and non-summer release date did $5 million more in three days that “Baby Driver” managed in five.

“Baby driver” does offer a cost vs. return model that the studios could easily imitate, even if next week’s “Spider-Man” reboot and their later “The Dark Tower” are what they care about most. But many studio production staffers would happily champion these riskier bets.

The verdict on “Baby Driver” will depend on next weekend’s hold. It is well-positioned to get to a minimum of $75 million in domestic results, with significantly higher not out of reach. It is being talked about and the timing of holiday social events (where people talk in person) could be its best advertising ahead. Stay tuned.

“47 Meters Down”


It’s feast or famine here. “Wonder Woman” (Warner Bros.) continued its strong holds with only a 35 per cent drop. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” might steal its thunder, but it now is could get to at least $380 million domestic, with higher possible (even a chance to equal “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which looks to top out just under $390 million.)

The British indie action thriller “47 Meters Down” (Entertainment Studios) kept its drop even lower (34 per cent) and should end up around $45 million — and set itself up well for foreign play, not easy for a non-studio film.

Falling over 60 per cent were “Transporters: The Last Knight” (Paramount), down 62 per cent, similar to past series films which though started much higher, and “Cars 3” (Disney) in its third weekend (down 60 per cent), which was hurt by “Despicable Me 3” but is down much more than similar Pixar films at this stage.

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