LOS ANGELES — The summer box office this year hasn’t been the friendliest to franchise films, but “Despicable Me 3” looks to buck the trend.
In a record 4,529 locations -- the widest domestic release ever -- Illumination and Universal’s threequel could land in the $90 million-$100 million range this weekend. The studio is estimating slightly lower, around $85 million.
Either way, that’s a win for the franchise, which has grossed over $955 million domestically and $2.7 billion worldwide with the first three installations (including the “Minions” spinoff). “Despicable Me 2” opened this weekend in 2013, and earned $83.5 million. The franchise has historically performed well overseas -- this installment has already taken in $20 million internationally from six select territories over the past two weekends.
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Steve Carell plays double duty in “Despicable Me 3” as the series’ protagonist Gru, and now also his twin brother, Dru. The plot centers on the brothers, as they team up for a criminal heist. “South Park” co-creator Trey Parker joins the franchise to voice the villain. Critics are generally on the movie’s side, earning it a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Otherwise, “Baby Driver,” from Sony’s TriStar Pictures and MRC, has ridden steady buzz since its South by Southwest premiere on its way to a studio-projected opening in the low-teens. Other estimates put the original project past the $20 million mark.
Edgar Wright’s high-speed, R-rated, music-infused thriller has won over critics, earning a current 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. The rollout starts Wednesday evening, before expanding to roughly 3,200 locations. “Baby Driver” looks to be the director’s most commercially viable project so far -- the highest opening for an Edgar Wright movie was $10.6 million for 2010’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”
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The movie centers around a character named Baby (Ansel Elgort), who becomes the getaway driver for a kingpin named Doc (Kevin Spacey). Music plays an integral role in the film since Baby suffered a traumatic experience as a child that left him with tinnitus, which he blocks out with music. The rest of the cast includes Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx.
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That leaves the Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell comedy “The House,” which is expected to land in the $13 million-$16 million range. The studio gave a slightly lower estimate in the $12 million-$14 million range. The film, from New Line, Warner Bros., and Village Roadshow, may be the latest R-rated comedy to slip under the radar this summer, following less-than stellar openings for “Snatched,” “Baywatch,” and “Rough Night.”
“The House” is the story of a husband (Ferrell) and wife (Poehler) who start an underground casino to help raise money for their daughter’s college fund. Andrew Jay Cohen directed from a script that he wrote with Brendan O’Brien -- the two previously collaborated on the “Neighbors” movies.
While the blockbuster space is crowded enough, keep an eye out for indies “The Beguiled” and “The Big Sick,” which both performed exceptionally well in limited release last weekend.