The Minions Have a Huge Weekend in Theaters, Extending Problems for Disney

(Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures via AP)


The animation franchise has added another hit to its resume, and Disney can only sit back and wonder…

Hollywood continues to return to pre-pandemic form and evolve in the process, and it was with a dose of anticipation that many were looking at this 4th of July weekend. Partly this is to see how large of turnout there would be for the summer holiday, as a measure of how audiences are returning to theaters. Another point of interest was the release of “Minions: The Rise Of Gru”, the sequel to the spinoff from the “Despicable Me” series, as the animation sector is still a question mark for much of Hollywood these days.


The title from Illumination Studios, the animation partner with Universal Pictures, was one of the anticipated releases of the summer, and it surely delivered. The three-day debut for the family title has grossed an estimated $108.5 million, and it is expected to add at least another $20 million for today’s holiday frame. It will be a couple of days before the full slate of films is counted, but it seems sure that this Independence Day will total out in the $45-50 million range of the recent pre-pandemic years.

All of these positive numbers actually represent bad news for the Hollywood Titan, The Disney Corporation. The success this weekend underscores just how big of a disappointment that studio’s major summer release has been. Initially projected to earn between $70-80 million on its opening weekend, “Lightyear” severely underperformed with a much softer $50.5 premiere. That total was nearly matched by “The Minions 2” on Friday alone. This weekend’s three-day performance exceeds the three-weekend total of “Lightyear”.

Making this significant was many of the excuses offered up in the press are now exposed as hollow. Speculation was that possibly families were not ready for theaters, or they had been conditioned to watch animated titles at home on streaming services. Other possible reasons, with some validity, were the departure from the “Toy Story” formula, and/or replacing Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz Lightyear – but these were known quantities ahead of the release and were considered for the predictions of its performance.

Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

Adding to the speculation had been months of Disney incurring a negative backlash for its choosing to enter the political fray of the Florida parental rights law, something that saw the rarity of negative PR for the company. Just as significant of an influence on performance was the inclusion of lesbian characters in the family film, possibly a divisive piece of content repelling parents. 

Disney elected to spot-weld a same-sex kissing scene into “Lightyear” following the conflict in Florida, a move that I had questioned during the release. As a sign of how impactful that decision might have played into the poor performance of the film, ahead of its release the press was enthusiastically covering that content, yet following the dismal opening few if any outlets were willing to cite that as a possible contributing factor.

This weekend’s box office returns of “Minions 2” are significant. The title has surpassed most of the openings of titles in the franchise and it stands as one of the top-ten animated openings of all time. This shows families are willing to turn out to theaters, and that content is a motivator to bring them out. It also highlights Disney’s problems – problems that are being shown to be self-created.



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