As Illumination/Universal’s Minions: The Rise of Gru clinches an Independence Day 4-day opening record of $127.9M, the movie’s success this weekend should come as a reminder to many executives, both motion picture and streaming, as well as Wall Street, about the power of the big screen.
While it may go without saying, realize that Rise of Gru‘s success here, in addition to being built on the back of a multimillion dollar global marketing campaign, is also propped by a kid’s brand that has generated over $6 billion in retail sales. And that brand was built off of what was an original motion picture IP 12 years ago, which hasn’t dimmed. Streaming movie franchises — they don’t yield these types of results.
True, there’s the assortment of Viacom Nick properties, i.e. South Park, SpongeBob, and Dora the Explorer. But those are long-running TV series.
When you’re a motion picture global brand, advertisers want to partner with you, and in the case of Minions: The Rise of Gru, Universal pulled in a group of global advertisers, who all together delivered the biggest media value ever for an Illumination Despicable Me/Minions movie at $285M+, according to sources.
These stateside partners included Liberty Mutual, CarMax, Zip Recruiter, IHOP restaurants, HelloFresh, Hippeas, Levi’s, Supergoop!, Olipop, McDonald’s, and more.
Consider the feat with pulling this promo partnership off for a minute. This was a movie that was originally scheduled to come out two years ago. The pandemic screwed up all these promo partnerships for a number of movies, i.e. bags of Wonder Woman 1984 Doritos were hitting grocery shelves during the summer of 2020 as that sequel was originally set to be released that summer (before jettisoning to a HBO Max theatrical day-and-date plan at the end of the year). There were certain promotions connected to tentpole movies that summer which had to go, as the product and supply chain was ready for that product. In the case of Minions: The Rise of Gru, toys connected to the movie were hitting Walmart. Ditto for Top Gun: Maverick, which had a Matchbox airplane set on shelves, too.
Whenever there are massive last-minute release theatrical date shifts (we’re talking last-minute, within months), promo partners are apt to get riled up at studios, as products have been created for a film, and there’s a time line in which they’re expected to hit the market. However, during the earlier part of the pandemic, there were a multitude of release date changes as box office capitals New York and LA remained closed, and studios, for the most part, remained on level terms with promo partners because of force majeure rules.
Some of Minions: Rise of Gru‘s stateside advertisers include:
Liberty Mutual, which had their first animation partnership with Rise of Gru, with their custom spot starring the guys in an iconic New York boardwalk backdrop from Liberty Mutual’s Truth Tellers campaign.
In its first film partnership, automotive retail partner CarMax aired two spots featuring the Minions around its 30-Day Money Back Guarantee (up to 1,500 miles) and Instant Online Offer to sell one’s car. The sequel was promoted on CarMax’s social channels and at their 230+ store locations nationwide. There was a social filter, whereby CarMax customers could take a photo or video with the Minions as they capture the memory of purchasing their new car, along with CarMax’s iconic big yellow bow.
McDonald’s is a returning partner to the franchise, and they’ve pushed the sequel in 70 markets, including Australia, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Korea, Japan, and Canada. The campaigns included three lines of Happy Meals and a line of plastic toys. There was a custom animated spot featuring the Minions putting their Kung-Fu skills to the test for the last McNugget.
IHOP served up a limited menu centered around the film with Ba-Ba-Banana Pudding Pancakes, Cinna-minions, Gru’s Evil Steakburger, and more at their 1,700 restaurants in the US, Mexico, Peru, Panama, and Puerto Rico. The partnership included a 360 marketing campaign and custom TV spot featuring a Minion dreaming about the pancakes and fantasizing about a whirlwind romance together.
Rise of Gru was featured in Levi’s 275 stores around the world, where consumers could choose from an assortment of pins, patches, and more, then work with a tailor to adorn to their favorite Levi’s piece. The in-store experience included a Minions takeover of the Levi’s Tailor Shop, a custom Levi’s Minions video spot, and an interactive element.
HelloFresh offered up a limited-edition inspired-by meal kit for consumers to create their own Minions Pizza. Consumers were able to submit photos on social media with the hashtag, #HelloFreshMinions, and enter into a contest to win movie tickets and swag.
Suncare brand Supergoop! launched a limited-edition Minions line with its Play sunscreen. The collaboration dropped right around National Sunscreen Day to promote the film, while educating on the importance of SPF. Supergoop! also has a Minions-themed PSA, organic social, and PR/influencer campaign.
Soda brand Olipop created a limited-edition Banana Cream flavor inspired by the Minions’ infatuation with the fruit. Olipop pushed the movie via organic social, digital media, influencer partnerships, email newsletters, SMS, and a webpage takeover in a campaign that racked up 22M impressions.
Chickpea-based snack brand, Hippeas is a returning partner to the series with a campaign in the US, UK, and Ireland. Minions are splashed across all flavors of its chickpea puffs in a program that’s supported by outdoor, in-store displays, digital and PR.
There was never a question about family moviegoers returning during the pandemic. In fact, they already did, and Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s record $804.8M domestic performance was proof, along with Illumination/Universal’s Sing 2 playing in the shadow of it during the year-end holidays, with a final $162.7M U.S./Canada gross.
However, Rise of Gru did attract a massive under-25 demographic at 89%. Even more impressive is how Universal made a brand that was unhip, hip again for the 13-17 crowd, who showed up at 34%. Alas, the power of TikTok. Scroll down for more detail.
Said Universal Domestic Distribution Boss Jim Orr about the success of Minions: The Rise of Gru this weekend, “This is an amazing debut, proving that when you have an incredibly well-crafted, brilliantly acted, hysterically funny film, as we do with Minions: The Rise of Gru, family audiences will pour into theatres. Chris Meledandri and Illumination add to their extraordinary record of success with a film that audiences are embracing around the world.”
Of Minions: Rise of Gru‘s ticket sales, $8.6M ($7.3M for the 3-day) came from 400 Imax auditoriums in the US and Canada, making it the fourth-highest Domestic IMAX opening weekend ever for an animated title.
There’s a handful of tentpoles that Universal promotes through its Symphony program, which means they get a huge push across all sister brands in the Comcast conglomerate.
In partnership with its streamer, Peacock, there was a cobranded Minions: The Rise of Gru x The Office custom animated piece which dropped, yielding over 14M views in its first day online.
Minions had in-show integrations on America’s Got Talent and TODAY, which had a Minion segment daily during its week of release, including anchors drawn as Minions by The Rise of Gru codirector Brad Abelson. There was also a Minion fan celebration event from the TODAY plaza, exclusive clip reveals, and an appearance by star Steve Carell. There was also a full Minions episode takeover of American Ninja Warrior, including a branded obstacle course, animated Minions running the course, and a cobranded logo.
Rise of Gru kicked off with the Tokyo Summer Olympics featuring two custom animated, cobranded spots highlighting the yellow guys’ encounter with Olympians Caeleb Dressel and Simone Biles. There were also placements across the Beijing Olympics, French open, Indy Car, MLB, Premiere League, Belmont Stakes, Sky’s broadcast of The Hundreds, and Telemundo’s broadcast of the FIFA World Cup.
And, of course, there were activations at Universal Parks and Resorts, including Minions tricked-out at entrances, tram tours, etc. at Universal Studios Japan, Singapore, Hollywood, and Orlando resorts.
Weekend estimates as of this morning:
1.) Minions: Rise of Gru (Uni) 4,391 theaters, Fri $48.2M, Sat $32.6M, Sun $27.7M, 3-day $108.5M, 4-day $127.9M/Wk 1
2.) Top Gun: Maverick (Par) 3,843 (-105) theaters, Fri $7.1M, Sat $9.6M Sun $8.7M, 3-day $25.5M (-14%), 4-day $32.5M, Total $570.9M/Wk 6
At $1.1 billion, the sequel is now producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s highest grossing movie of all-time worldwide, outstripping 2006’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest which did $1.066 billion.
3.) Elvis (WB) 3,932 (+26) theaters, Fri $5.3M, Sat $6.9M, Sun $6.9M 3-day $19M (-39%) 4-day $24M, Total $72.3M/Wk 2
Great hold here. But it’s not the young kids who are propelling this movie in weekend 2 PostTrak exits. Rather, it’s the continued flow of older women. Females 25+ repped half the audience (+5%). The over 55 crowed showed up at 33% this weekend (+2%), while the under 25 at 18% (-3%).
4.) Jurassic World Dominion (Uni) 3,801 (-432) theaters, Fri $4.7M, Sat $5.9M, Sun $5M, 3-day $15.6M (-41%), 4-day $19.2M, Total $335.3M/Wk 4
5.) The Black Phone (Uni) 3,156 (+6) theaters, Fri $3.9M, Sat $4.5M Sun $3.8M, 3-day $12.3M (-48%), 4-day $14.6M,/Total $49.7M: Wk 2
Typically horror films drop like a rock in weekend 2, more than -60%. Not this one.
6.) Lightyear (Dis) 3,800 (-455) theaters, Fri $2M, Sat $2.4M , Sun $2.1M/3-day $6.5M (-64%), 4-day $8.1M, Total $106.9M/Wk 3
7.) Mr. Malcolm’s List (BST) 1,384 theaters, Fri $311K, Sat $285K, Sun $256K, 3-day $851,8K, 4-day $1.03M/Wk 1
8.) Everything, Everywhere All at Once (A24) 607 (+83) theaters, Fri $141K, Sat $209K Sun $202K, 3-day $552K (+4%), 4-day $673K, Total $67.1M/Wk 15
9.) Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Dis) 590 (-1,265) theaters, Fri $108k, Sat $152K, Sun $130K, 3-day $390K (-78%), 4-day $482K, Total $410.6M/Wk 9
10.) Jug Jugg Jeeyo (Moviegoer) 318 theaters, Fri $98,6K, Sat $112K, Sun $97,4K, 3-day $308K (-58%), 4-day $375,6K, Total: $1.5M/Wk 2
11.) Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (A24) 22 theaters (+16), Fri $92K, Sat $85K Sun $82K , 3-day $258,4K (+62%), 4-day $308K, Total $530,7K/Wk 2