The winner: Minions
They’re small, yellow, speak an indecipherable babble and lack the strong individual characters typically associated with hit movies, and yet Minions has just scored the biggest debut weekend in the UK for an animated feature. Most people would struggle to pick Stuart, Kevin and Bob out of a lineup, yet the trio has bested Toy Story, Shrek and all the other big guns from Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks.
With a debut of £11.59m, Minions has beaten the opening weekends of animation powerhouses Toy Story 3 (£11.49m), Shrek 2 (£10.61m) and Shrek the Third (£10.33m). Despicable Me 2 – the previous best in the franchise – began with £9.95m. Two big caveats to consider, however. First, these figures are not adjusted for inflation. And second, they are three-day comparisons only. Preview takings have been stripped out of all the aforementioned numbers. (Minions didn’t have paid preview screenings.) Including previews, Minions is way behind its rivals. Four days of previews boosted Toy Story 3’s opening “weekend” (effectively a seven-day figure) to £21.19m. Previews pushed both Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third to openings above £16m, and Despicable Me 2 close to £15m.
Minions continues the remarkable success story for Universal in 2015. In less than six months, the studio has scored four openings above £10m, beginning in February with Fifty Shades of Grey (£13.55m), continuing in April with Fast & Furious 7 (£12.77m), and again in June with Jurassic World (£19.35m including previews of £2.51m) and now Minions. No other UK distributor has managed three £10m-plus openings in a calendar year, let alone four. Minions should enjoy four strong weeks of play, with negligible competition for the family audience until Pixar’s Inside Out arrives on July 24. Its box-office target will be Despicable Me 2’s final tally of £47.46m.
The success of Minions confirms the ever more competitive environment between studios in animation. For decades, Disney dominated. Then in 1995, Toy Story heralded the arrival of Pixar as a new force – initially distributing in partnership with Disney, then acquired by the Mouse House in 2006 for $7.4bn. Antz put DreamWorks on the map in 1998, with 2001’s Shrek anointing it as a major competitor. Ice Age put Fox strongly in the game in 2002. Warners (Happy Feet, The Lego Movie) and to a lesser extent Sony (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) have robustly entered the space. And Universal’s Illumination subsidiary, with its Despicable Me franchise, is scoring hits every bit as big as the market leaders. For the heads of these animation studios, the pressure to deliver with each film is intense.
The runner-up: Jurassic World
After two weeks at the top spot, Jurassic World has been pushed into second place by the evil-serving, banana-hued urchins. Takings fell by 48% from the previous frame. Although the number of cinemas playing Jurassic World has barely changed, the screen count and showtime count will have dipped significantly, as multiplexes switched their focus to Minions. Still, £5.78m for a third weekend of play is not too shabby. In May, Avengers: Age of Ultronmanaged £3.51m at the same stage of its run.
With £48.91m so far, Jurassic World is already the biggest hit of 2015, and bigger than any release from 2014 or 2013. In other words, it’s the biggest film at UK cinemas since Skyfall. The film looks a dead cert to reach £60m here, landing it a spot in the top 10 UK box-office hits of all time (not adjusted for inflation). The original Jurassic Park grossed £47.89m here in 1993.
The chasing pack
With Minions and Jurassic World posing such a potent threat at cinemas, no other major release arrived at the weekend. The Eli Roth-directed Keanu Reeves genre title Knock Knock found its way into 266 cinemas, achieving a rather weak £251,000, for a site average of £943. The rest of the top 10 is made up of held over titles. The fact that Secret Cinema’s The Empire Strikes Back saw takings dip by 3%, and yet its chart placing rose from ninth to fifth, says a lot about the flatness of the market below the top two titles.The Secret Cinema event continues its very steady run. With 22 of its 100 engagements under its belt, The Empire Strikes Back has grossed £1.42m, putting it on target for £6.5m if the current pace is sustained.