World Box Office: Heated domestic race finds Despicable Me 3 on top

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In a heated domestic race this weekend newcomer Despicable Me 3 proved to be totally magnetic, while Transformers managed to turn itself into a major disappointment. In Universal’s fourth Despicable film, after the summer 2015 spinoff Minions, Steve Carell returns as the loveable anti-hero Felonius Gru and also voices his twin brother, Dru.

He’s joined by Kristen Wiig’s Lucy Wilde, Gru’s former partner and now wife, while Southpark co-creator Trey Parker signs on as villain Balthazar Bratt. After losing his job at the anti-villain league, Gru finds himself working as a bad guy again after linking up with his long lost twin brother. Eventually Gru’s moral compass gets the better of him and the pair find themselves working together to bring down Balthazar after he threatens to float a city into outer space with chewing gum.

D3 opened to a strong $75.4 million, well ahead of the original’s $56.9 million but just behind D2’s $83 million launch. It had a near-perfect sweep in its overseas launch, taking first place in 44 of the 46 markets where it played. The biggest foreign territory, the UK, made $14.7 million while Mexico scored the second biggest launch ever for an animated film, close behind at $13.5 million. Next came Russia at $9.2 million followed by Brazil with $7.5 million. Overall foreign plays were worth $95 million, with earnings from early release markets like Australia and the Philippines bringing its foreign cume to $117 million. The combined global figure at this point is $192.4 million with major markets France, China, Italy, Germany, Japan and South Korea still to come.

Fellow newcomer Baby Driver made its North American debut this weekend and landed in second with $17 million. British action comedy pioneer Edgar Wright directs this fast-paced heist film starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eliza González, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea. Elgort’s character, Baby, is an Atlanta-based getaway driver who’s roped into doing one last job by crime boss Doc (Spacey.) He and his girlfriend Debra, played by Lily James, plot to use this as an opportunity to make their break from the fast life and set off a fiery and violent series of events. It made $30 million at home and $6.8 million abroad in an initial dip into the UK and some smaller European markets. Global openings are scheduled to stagger until the first week of September.

As well as Baby Driver did to sidestep D3, Warner Bros.’ The House was squeezed out by rival Universal’s tentpole. In a weekend heavy on comedies this entry, which stars Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler and cost $40 million to produce, couldn’t find a niche for itself and made just $9 million. In the film Ferrell and Poehler’s characters have a daughter accepted into private school, which they can’t afford. They try to change this by opening a casino in their home and everything nearly goes awfully wrong for the desperate couple. Critics panned the film pretty much across the board but a not entirely horrible B- Cinemascore may give it hope for at least a strong VOD run.

Transformers: The Last Knight meanwhile couldn’t stand the heat – broiled to death in its armor after a disappointing $17 million second home weekend. Paramount’s fifth film in the series based on the popular 80s and 90s action figures is doing fine abroad but its home showing signals a  serious need for a new direction in the studio’s franchise. Foreign plays were worth $85 million and brought TLK’ s overseas gross to a healthy $327 million. Domestic sales are now just $105 million after two weeks, and its $429 million global cumulative may not fully make up for that home defeat.

Next week we’ll see Spiderman: Homecoming, A Ghost Story and Patty Cake$ opening in the US. Despicable Me 3 moves into China, where it will be the last release before the PRC’s summer foreign film ban goes into effect.

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