Long Range Forecast: DESPICABLE ME 4 Targets the Fourth of July Holiday

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

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Long Range Forecast — July 5, 2024

Despicable Me 4 | Universal Pictures
Domestic Opening Weekend Range:
$60-$80M (as of 6/7)

The biggest global animated franchise in history, the Despicable Me and Minions films have earned $1.5 billion domestically and a staggering $4.6 billion worldwide. Minions mayhem will continue in Illumination’s Despicable Me 4, the first direct sequel in the Despicable Me franchise in seven years.

Following 2022’s Minions: The Rise of Gru ($370.2M domestic/$942.6M global), the series returns with Gru (Steve Carrell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) welcoming a new member to the Gru family. They soon find themselves forced to go on the run thanks to the new nemesis Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell) and his femme fatale girlfriend Valentina (Sofia Vergara). Despicable Me 4 is directed by Minions co-creator Chris Renaud (Despicable Me 2 $368M domestic/$970.7M global, The Secret Life of Pets $368.6M domestic/$894.5M global), and co-directed by Patrick Delage, who previously served as the animation director of Sing 2 and The Secret Life of Pets 2, as well as the lead animator of the original Despicable Me. The screenplay is written by Mike White and Ken Daurio, the veteran writer of every Despicable Me film. At this year’s CinemaCon, Universal unveiled an extended caper sequence from the animated film, which received a warm reception from the exhibition community.

With its combined $1.591B in domestic box office ($4.649M global), Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me franchise has been kind to movie theaters—and the July 4 weekend has been kind to it. Opening on Wednesday, July 3, the latest film in the series is fueling hopes for exhibitors in dire need of mid-summer hits.

To date, the only Despicable Me film to open under $60M is the first one—which, aside from not benefiting from the cultural ubiquity of the Minions that later films have enjoyed, opened over the same weekend as the World Cup finals. When Despicable Me opened on July 10, for a $56.3M opening weekend on just shy of 3,500 screens, it did so in the middle of a summer that had already had one family-friendly monster hit in Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3, which had opened four weeks earlier to the tune of $110M. Entries in two other well-known children’s franchises—Shrek Forever After and The Karate Kid remake—had come out in May and June, respectively, shortly after the March release of another franchise-starter, How to Train Your Dragon. Despicable Me stood out in a crowded year for family entertainment, enjoying strong holds (it was in the top ten through Labor Day weekend) and spawning a box office behemoth.

2013’s Despicable Me 2 was the first film in the franchise to release over the Fourth of July weekend, hitting theaters on Wednesday and earning $84.2M (FSS) and $143.0M (WTFSS) on just shy of 4,000 screens. It would eventually earn $368M domestically, making it the third-highest grosser of the year. During its opening weekend, Despicable Me 2 trounced a pair of films from Disney—much-advertised, big-budget (and low-earning) The Lone Ranger, also out over the holiday weekend—and Monsters University, which had come out the week before.

For the next film in the franchise, 2015’s Minions, Universal chose not to open over the Fourth of July weekend, opting instead for July 10. The choice didn’t keep Minions from becoming the first $100M+ opener of the Despicable Me franchise; its $115.7M bow was followed by a leggy domestic run where week-to-week drops were never steeper than -60%.

Despicable Me 3, released in 2017, returned to the July 4 window, coming out on June 30 (a Friday) and $72.4M through the end of Sunday. Add in daily grosses from Monday and Tuesday (for many families, the tail end of an extended five-day holiday), and Despicable Me 3 would open just shy of $100M with $99.02M.

Then came the pandemic, which depressed studio slates and box office earnings for years beginning in 2020—which made the blockbuster success of prequel Minions: The Rise of Gru, released on July 1, 2022, all the more welcome. Over the three-day weekend, the film earned $107M; add in Monday, July 4, and that total grows to $123M.

The Rise of Gru was given a boost by the social media #GentleMinions phenomenon, which encouraged young adults—nostalgic for the earlier films in the series and suffering from a certain sense of pent-up energy following years of indoor entertainment—dressed up in suits and attended screenings in large groups. Borne of TikTok, this interactive, highly engaged approach to moviegoing would reappear last summer with the Barbenheimer phenomenon—which, unlike #GentleMinions, cinemas knew to prepare for.

As of yet, a #GentleMinionsPart2 does not appear to be in the works—though the GenZ audience that made up a substantial chunk of The Rise of Gru‘s opening weekend could represent a large chunk of the opening weekend box office for Despicable Me 4.

Early tracking for Despicable Me 4 has the film enjoying a three-day opening (FSS) frame between $60 and $80M. That puts the latest entry in the franchise performing along the lines of the last Despicable Me film, 2017’s Despicable Me 3—which finished its domestic run at $264.6M. A wide-open release corridor with virtually no competition from other family titles makes us confident that Despicable Me 4 can cross the $250M benchmark through the conclusion of its domestic run.

Tracking Updates [as of 6/4]

Release DateTitleOpening Weekend RangeDistributor
6/14/24Inside Out 2$70-$100MDisney
6/21/24The Bikeriders$8-$15MFocus Features
6/28/24Horizon: An American Saga$15-$30MWarner Bros.
6/28/24A Quiet Place: Day One$45-$55MParamount Pictures

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Courtesy of Universal Pictures
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