The secret’s out: animated films rule the box office.
This past weekend, The Secret Life of Pets opened to a record-breaking $103 million. That’s the largest debut for a non-sequel animated film ever (and the first to cross $100 million in its first three days), topping last year’s $90.4 million notched by Pixar’s Inside Out. Pre-weekend estimates had Pets tracking at a $70 million weekend, making the debut all-the-more impressive and unexpected.
Meanwhile, Finding Dory became the new stateside queen of Pixar movies. Its $422.6 million (and counting) surpasses Toy Story 3‘s $415 million. Finding Dory hit that milestone while still ranking as the #3 movie in the nation (and possibly #2 once final numbers come in on Monday); its weekend estimate is a still-healthy $20.3 million in its fifth weekend. It’s only a matter of time before it unseats Shrek 2 as the #1 Animated Film of All Time in North America, as Dory is just $19 million shy of Shrek 2‘s $441 million total.
But at a $642.8 million global gross, Finding Dory still has a long way to go if it wants to don the worldwide crown. That’s currently worn by Frozen with nearly $1.3 billion. (Its domestic gross was just over $400 million.)
Finding Dory also became the #1 North American movie of 2016 thus far, swimming past fellow Disney blockbuster Captain America: Civil War. That Marvel tentpole is landing at around a $406 total haul. (Dory‘s $642.8 million global gross is currently 6th for the year.)
For producer Chris Meledandri, the head of Illumination Entertainment (Universal’s answer to Pixar, with original property hits Despicable Me 1 & 2 and Minions), his latest $100+ million opener cements him alongside Pixar/Disney animation chief John Lasseter as a titan in the industry. Particularly impressive to Hollywood (and Universal shareholders) is that the budget of Illumination films average about half those of Pixar and DreamWorks, and a quarter less than BlueSky (the Ice Age franchise).
The Secret Life of Pets, for example, is already in the black. Its budget was a thrifty $75 million. Needless to say, at that profit margin, a new franchise has been born.
(Correction: the initial posting of this report cited Toy Story 3 as the previous top grossing Animated film in North America. Thanks to Peter L. Chattaway for the correction that Shrek 2 still currently holds that honor.)