LOS ANGELES - The minions have overtaken "The Lone Ranger."
"Despicable Me 2" is trampling the Johnny Depp Western at the holiday box office, according to studio estimates released Friday. The animated Universal sequel collected three times as much as the Disney cowboy caper since both films debuted Wednesday (plus limited Tuesday-night showings). "Despicable Me 2" rang up $59.5 million in ticket sales to $19.5 million for "The Lone Ranger." On Independence Day, the margin tightened somewhat, but the animated film still dominated with $24.5 million, compared with the "Ranger's" $9.86 million.
"This was a family weekend," said Gene Del Vecchio, author of "Creating Blockbusters" and a marketing professor at the University of Southern California. "Kids vote with their requests, parents vote with their dollars, and when those things were combined, they voted for 'Despicable Me 2.' "
The budget for the Universal film was a fraction of that of the Disney Western, which saw production stall because of soaring costs that ended up in the $250 million range.
"This just shows it's not about the amount of money you spend. It's about the quality of the script and the production itself," Del Vecchio said.
Poor reviews for "The Lone Ranger" may have contributed to sluggish ticket sales. Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper called it "slick trash," while the AP's Jake Coyle said the 2 1/2-hour spectacle "finally, exhaustingly collapses in a scrap heap of train wreckage."
" 'The Lone Ranger' is, alas, a runaway train," Coyle wrote.
It's a serious misstep for blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski and megastar Depp, who partnered profitably on the first three "Pirates of the Caribbean" films. Depp's take on Tonto has been compared unfavorably to Captain Jack Sparrow in face paint.