Friday, July 8, 2016

Big Dogs: 'Secret Life of Pets' Scores Record-Breaking Opening

Universal certainly knows how to market their animated movies...

Illumination has given them a stream of hits. Despicable Me, their debut feature, took in $56 million on its opening weekend. Not bad for a first timer in a post-2005 animation field. It opened so well because Universal really marketed the heck out of it, and it looked kind of cool back then. You had these weird-looking yellow things, then we saw the "bad guy becomes good guy" story, it looked like something worth seeing. At the time its opening weekend gross was great for a non-Pixar/DreamWorks title. (This was before post-Eisner Disney Animation got the marketing they deserved.)

Not even two years later, The Lorax became the biggest opener for a Dr. Seuss adaptation, taking in a surprising $70 million. Despicable Me 2 didn't stay flat, it opened even higher than the first. Minions' opening weekend gross topped that by a mile. The anomaly here is Hop, which had a fairly decent-sized opening at best. Hop was also a live-action/animation hybrid that looked too close to the kiddie-kiddie Chipmunks movies, so the adult appeal wasn't entirely there.

The Secret Life of Pets is the studio's first all-original story since Despicable Me. Universal, as expected, pulled out all the stops with the marketing. They know how to hit the audience and movie-going public, they have a knack for generating hits out of this studio's output. It's almost miraculous in a way. Even if their films haven't been of high quality, the success of them proves to me: Marketing is the name of the game. It doesn't matter if the movie's great or shovelware in our eyes, if it hits the audience from the trailers, it opens high.

Universal gets it. In order to get people coming in on opening weekend, the crucial weekend for pretty much all big movies, you got to make the film look good. It doesn't matter if it's some mediocre thing or a skip-it, with some magical force called editing... You can make a movie look like something worth seeing. So many poorly-reviewed blockbusters have opened high, did boffo business. Why's that? They looked good, so you went in regardless of reviews!

More than anything, DreamWorks lucked out. Fox marketing has done them a disservice for the most part, imagine Universal's monstrous marketing machine... DreamWorks may not have to worry anymore.

Back to Pets...

Deadline is reporting that it's looking to make at least $80 million for the weekend. Some estimates are putting the film at $100 million!

$100 million.

Few animated films have opened with over $100 million, unadjusted... Those few films happen to be sequels and/or spinoffs: Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, Toy Story 3, Minions, and Finding Dory...

The closest a non-sequel animated film has ever gotten to the big one-oh-oh was Pixar's Inside Out last year.

Deadline assumes that Pets will likely fall to the high 80s/low 90s, thinking it doesn't have the widespread adult appeal of an animated film like Finding Dory. Sounds about right, but comedic elements - when used right in trailers - get them all in, adults, kids, even teens. Regardless, The Secret Life of Pets is going to open big and keep animation domination going. It'll also be another much-needed smash for this summer of come-and-go flicks.

Reviews for the picture are pretty decent too, its reception is Despicable Me-level. That excites me, as someone who thinks Despicable Me is the only good film that Illumination has made. However, Despicable Me 2 got similarly good marks from critics, and I found that one to be "eh". I'll go in with an open mind, but my expectations are tempered. Very much so.

Finding Dory will be no slouch, either. It's set to have a sturdy drop this weekend and make roughly $22 million, bringing the total to the mid 420s. By the weekend after, it'll have become the domestic animated champion, finally dethroning Shrek 2.

How do you think the pets will do?

[To be updated...]

Friday estimates in... $38 million. Wow!

$97 million+ it seems, says Deadline... Even if it falls shy of the big one-oh-oh, it'll still have the biggest opening for a movie not based on any pre-existing IP.

UPDATE: Numbers are in...

$104 million...

Let that sink in.

The pets hit the chords with the audience. Given how Illumination's summer films usually fare, I won't be surprised if this pulls a 4x multiplier and tops $400 million domestic, one of the few non-sequel animated movies to reach that benchmark. Despicable Me 2 is a good comparison for now. It didn't matter if it was more frontloaded, that sequel pulled a 4.4x multiplier, the same multiplier its sleeper hit predecessor pulled.

Two animated films in one year topping $400 million... That's something! The zaniness and slapstick should appeal overseas too. It has yet to open in several key markets, so the overseas total is only $42 million right now. Anyways, like all of Illumination's films, it'll make it all back by next weekend.

Some animation glut we're having, huh?

Finding Dory took a bit of a dip this weekend, around 51%, $20 million for the haul, it now sits at $423 million domestically and $644 million worldwide (it too is playing in a few overseas territories)... Animation domination, my friends.

The BFG dipped a bit hard, unless overseas numbers come to the rescue (which I doubt), it's another write-down for Disney and another non-remake live-action flop. The Legend of Tarzan eased a bit, it might be this year's World War Z if all goes well. That film that was "destined" to fail but may not in the end.

What a weekend...


  1. 99 million, 999 thousand,999 dollars, and 99 cents. Just misses 100 million.

  2. I wish that Sing does well, I want sure because its release date but I think that if Asasin's Creed has bad reviews it will bomb like how Warcraft bombed (well kinda because China saved it but I dont think that China will save this one). And if Asasin's Creed bombs Sing can take the cheanse and do well, I think it can do like the Lorax with 300 M. But because it had a small budget it was a success

    Btw: Pets and Sing budgets are 75 M. So im sure that they will do well even if they only make 300 M. (Wich wont be Pets case but maybe Sing will make that)

  3. It's pretty clear now that Illumination has become just as recognizable and marketable brand as Disney or Pixar.