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Box Office Report: 'Despicable Me 2' Leaves 'Lone Ranger' in the Dust

Despicable Me 2 Minions Laughing - H 2013
Universal Pictures
"Despicable Me 2"

JULY FOURTH UPDATE: Universal's 3D animated event pic is eyeing a five-day debut in the $130 million range; Disney's big-budget Western could have trouble reaching $50 million in a major financial blow for the studio.

Universal's Despicable Me 2 is already proving the box-office hit everyone thought it would be, while Disney's The Lone Ranger is off to a troubled start for the long July Fourth holiday box-office frame.

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Despicable 2 opened to a mammoth $34.3 million on Wednesday from 3,956 theaters -- including $4.7 million in Tuesday night runs -- putting the 3D animated sequel on course for a five-day debut in the $125 million to $130 million range, marking another major win for Universal's animation efforts (some think it could do more). The family pic, breaking several records, earned a coveted A CinemaScore from audiences, further boosting its standing.

Despicable 2's early international total is already $69.5 million, pushing it past the $100 million mark worldwide with a total of $100.2 million.

Conversely, Lone Ranger -- headlined by Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer -- may have trouble reaching $50 million after grossing a dismal $9.7 million from 3,904 locations on Wednesday, including $2 million in Tuesday night runs. That's an especially troubling number considering the film's price tag, and means Lone Ranger will have to do huge business internationally, as well has have strong legs domestically, just to break even.

Despicable Me 2 cost a modest $76 million to produce, while Lone Ranger cost at least $250 million. Director Gore Verbinski and Depp reunited with their Pirates of the Caribbean producer Jerry Bruckheimer to bring Lone Ranger to the big screen.

The third new entry of the July Fourth holiday frame is Summit Entertainment's stand-up comedy film Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, which grossed a stellar $4.8 million on Wednesday from only 876 theaters. Summit is hoping to provide counter-programming for African-American audiences as well as comedy fans. The film, from Codeblack Films and HartBeat Productions, was shot live at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Let Me Explain's opening-day location average of $5,422 was the second best of the day after Despicable 2's.
 
With Lone Ranger, Disney is hoping to whip up the same magic that BruckheimerVerbinski and Depp created with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. In this latest film, Depp applies his penchant for playing quirky characters to the role of Tonto (Depp says he is part Native American), while Hammer plays the Lone Ranger.

Hollywood will be be paying close attention to Lone Ranger's performance (at one point, it was almost scrapped entirely because of the budget). This past weekend, Sony's big-budget action tentpole White House Down, which cost $150 million to produce, flopped in its North American debut, grossing just $24.9 million.

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Despicable 2 is something of a sure bet, considering it's a sequel to a family hit. The toon opens three years after the first film took the box office by storm. The films are the brainchild of Chris Meledandri's Illumination Entertainment, the animation venture backed by Universal.

In the toon, Steve Carell returns to voice the role of Gru, master of the minions, while Kristen Wiig voices the role of Agent Lucy Wilde.

Despicable 2 scored the eighth-best Wednesday opening of all time, as well as the biggest Wednesday opening for Universal. It also nabbed the third best opening day for an animated film, including Friday.

Twitter: @PamelaDayM