With $44.8 million in domestic ticket sales Friday through Sunday, the animated sequel "Despicable Me 2" outdid the debuts of the Adam Sandler comedy "Grown Ups 2" and director Guillermo del Toro's monsters-versus-robots action flick "Pacific Rim."
The weekend's No. 1 movie featuring Steve Carell as ex-supervillain Gru made another $55.5 million overseas. That brought its global two-week total to $472.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
"This has become the July film to beat right now," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office tracking division of Hollywood.com. "There's something about the minions that audiences just love."
Sony was pleased with Sandler's second-best movie opening of his career with $42.5 million in sales in the U.S. and Canada (His best domestic opening was "The Longest Yard" from 2005 with $58.6 million over four days). Overseas, the comedy brought in $1.7 million.
The movie brings together former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal as a bumbling police officer with a host of comedy All-Stars including Chris Rock and David Spade playing awkward parents.
The third-place finish of "Pacific Rim," with $38.3 million in receipts, represented a disappointing start domestically for Warner Bros. and partner Legendary Entertainment. Figures released by the studio showed it doing better overseas.
The movie took in $53 million from 38 markets outside the U.S. and Canada, representing about half its overseas footprint. It has yet to open in China or Japan, the home of the movie's co-star, Rinko Kikuchi.
Warner Bros. said the debut of "Pacific Rim" in several countries such as Russia and South Korea was better than that other films that have gone on to gross more than $300 million internationally, like "Transformers 2" and "Prometheus."
The movie had an estimated production budget of $185 million, not including the millions spent on marketing, so there is still the opportunity for it to make its money back.
Fizziology, a company that tracks buzz on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, said that 82 percent of posts on "Pacific Rim" were positive ahead of the opening, with only 6 percent negative as some people drew negative comparisons to the "Power Rangers" or "Godzilla." The film draws heavily on Japan's "Kaiju" movie monster tradition.
Fizziology President Ben Carlson said the appeal of "Pacific Rim" to 3-D moviegoers and the fact it is one of the most-hyped films of the summer could help it with Asian audiences, he said.
"This movie's really pre-wired to do well in those territories," he said.
Disney's "The Lone Ranger," starring Johnny Depp as Tonto, took in $11.1 million domestically in its second week, falling into fifth place behind "The Heat" starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, which brought in another $14 million in its third week.
Stock market analysts predict Disney to book a big loss on the film.
The film was temporarily halted in July 2011 to rein in its budget, but production expenses alone are estimated to have exceeded $200 million. So far, it has pulled in just $119.1 million worldwide, roughly half of which is kept by theater owners. Eric Wold, an analyst with investment bank B. Riley & Co. pegged Disney's possible loss on the film at about $100 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.
1. "Despicable Me 2," $44.8 million. ($55.5 million international).
2. "Grown Ups 2," $42.5 million. ($1.7 million international).
3. "Pacific Rim," $38.3 million. ($53 million international).
4. "The Heat," $14 million. ($8.1 million international).
5. "The Lone Ranger," $11.1 million. ($12.7 million international).
6. "Monsters University,"$10.6 million. ($30.2 million international).
7. "World War Z," $9.4 million. ($22.4 million international).
8. "White House Down," $6.2 million. (41.8 million international).
9. "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain," $5 million.
10. "Man of Steel," $4.8 million. ($13.3 million international).