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Why ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ Thrived at the Box Office While ‘Lightyear’ Flailed

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Rebecca Rubin Film and Media ReporterBox office watchers were worried that family audiences had all but forgotten about movie theaters… until Gru and his mischievous yellow friends came along.

As it turns out, parents with young kids weren’t abandoning their local cinemas. Most of them just didn’t care to watch Disney’s Pixar film “Lightyear.”That’s the takeaway after “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” the fifth installment in Universal and Illumination’s popular “Despicable Me” franchise, put box office expectations to shame, opening to $125 million over the extended July 4th holiday weekend.

It comes a few weeks after “Lightyear” struggled to stir enthusiasm with its $51 million debut. After three weeks on the big screen, the latest Pixar movie has grossed just $106 million at the domestic box office, less than “Minions 2” generated in three days. “‘Minions’ shattered the idea that families don’t want to go back to the theaters,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior Comscore analyst. “You just have to give them a reason to go.”Given the lackluster turnout for the “Toy Story” spinoff “Lightyear” there was uncertainty regarding opening weekend ticket sales for “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” which was expected to make $70 million to start.

That would have been a dispiriting result for the lucrative series. There have been successes of the kid-friendly variety, like Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” Universal’s “Sing 2” and Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” but “Lightyear’s” shortcomings tossed some serious doubt on the willingness of family audiences to return to multiplexes.

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