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Hollywood held two smoking aces this weekend as studios tried their hand at the box office. Winning the weekend was Despicable Me, which nearly doubled the booty of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the third sequel in the hit Twilight series. The lovable animated feature hoarded a healthy $56 million and "Eclipse" took in approximately $31 million. Predators cashed out at around $25 million for third place, a worthy position for a horror film (and the fifth sequel in the franchise). The rest of the top ten took up stools in virtually the same positions as last week, as the box office laid out a 43 percent increase in business over 2009.
Bolstered by strong marketing featuring slightly inept yellow minions, Despicable Me won audiences over despite the lack of a strong base. Unlike Toy Story 3 or Shrek Forever After, this movie did not have the benefit of previous exposure to audiences to guarantee success. Ergo, it was underestimated by insiders. But if anything, this proves that an original idea can work in Tinseltown, as well as that family films are the most consistent boon for the movie theater business.
Predators also overthrew low expectations. The marketing was nostalgia driven, showing the ensemble cast doing exactly what fans of the franchise want them to: run for their lives as they are stalked by heavily armed aliens. The series was made famous by semi-retired bodybuilder-turned governor and heavily accented thespian Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1987 and the new film followed the same formula as the original, dropping trained killers in a jungle stalked by hunters.
The Top Ten (Studio Estimates)
Predators also attempted to frontline Robert Rodriquez, a fanboy favorite, as the producer of the film. But in the end, it was the predator, and not any of the actors or creators that took front and center in posters. If Predators can at least follow the trend of last year’s summer horror Drag Me to Hell, it could break $50 million domestic.
Next week's films are perhaps the most hotly anticipated of summer 2010: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Inception. Walt Disney has chosen a Wednesday premiere for their Nic Cage adventure. This family film differentiates itself by catering to older audiences and should make a hefty haul despite early negative reviews. However, with Despicable Me having a surprisingly strong premiere paired with word of mouth, the bounty may not be as high as previously predicted.
Christopher Nolan has become a highly revered director, following not only his work on Batman but earlier mind bending films such as Memento. Inception certainly has hype, but that does not guarantee ticket sales. Inception may go the route of Transformers or Avatar and sail, or the way of Kick-Ass and Watchmen and be an epic fail. Thus far reviews are exceedingly positive; Warner Brothers likely has another blockbuster on its hands.