LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Minions are still a box office force and original stories are scoring big, but not the R-rated comedy — even with Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler behind it.
Studio estimates on Sunday say that Universal Pictures and Illumination’s “Despicable Me 3” earned $75.4 million over the weekend, while the former Saturday Night Live stars’ gambling comedy “The House” burned down.
Featuring the voices of Steve Carell and Trey Parker, “Despicable Me 3” easily topped the holiday weekend charts from 4,529 theaters in North America. While it’s a far cry from “Minions’” $115 million launch in 2015, and also lower than “Despicable Me 2,” which opened to $83.5 million in 2013, Nick Carpou, president of Domestic Theatrical Distribution for Universal Pictures, says that $75 million is a number he’ll celebrate any day of the week.
Carpou notes that Illumination continues to prove itself a formidable brand for family entertainment.
“They resonate and absolutely are relatable,” Carpou said. “They’re movies that are built for all ages.”
Edgar Wright’s original heist movie “Baby Driver” coasted to $30 million in its first five days in theaters, with $21 million from the three-day weekend to take second place. Sony Pictures released the R-rated pic which stars Jamie Foxx, Ansel Elgort, Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey and cost a reported $34 million to produce.
“How great it is to see audiences turn out to support original filmmaking,” said Josh Greenstein, Sony’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution. “They’ve made ‘Baby Driver’ the surprise hit of the summer, a true sleeper.”
The R-rated film did well with critics and is one of a handful of original or independent films this weekend that are notable successes. Sofia Coppola’s R-rated Civil War-set film “The Beguiled” scored in its expansion from four to 674 theaters in its second weekend. It earned $3.3 million to take eighth place and bested franchise fare including “The Mummy” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” which were both playing in over 1,670 theaters.
The well-reviewed romantic comedy “The Big Sick” also did good business in its expansion to 71 locations, earning $1.7 million. The R-rated film expands wide on July 14.
“The best box office stories are further down the chart. They are all benefiting from feeling like the kind of content people are responding to on the small screen,” noted Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for comScore. “Perhaps this is the summer where Hollywood finally starts emulating the small screen model of creating compelling original content in order to generate goodwill with audiences who have more options than ever before.”
Rounding out the top five were holdovers “Transformers: The Last Knight” in third with $17 million, followed by “Wonder Woman” with $15.6 million and “Cars 3” with $9.5 million.
Not so successful was suburban gambling comedy “The House” which landed in sixth place with only $9 million — one of the lowest of Ferrell’s career and the latest in a string of R-rated comedies to tank at the box office following “Rough Night” and “Baywatch.”
“The R-rated comedy used to be the antidote to the typical summer blockbuster and now those films are having a tough time,” said Dergarabedian noting success stories like “The Hangover,” ”Bridesmaids” and “Neighbors.” ”Now people feel like they’ve seen that movie before when they watch the trailer. They’ve lost interest.”
Overall, the summer box office continues to struggle and is down nearly 8 percent from last year, while the year to date is close to flat. But the summer box office roller coaster may still have some surprises in store.
“‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ will swing in action later this week and, like ‘Wonder Woman’ before it, could turn things around,” Dergarabedian said. “But we need more than one box office superhero, we need multiple films performing.”
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr.