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'Despicable Me 2' Routs 'The Lone Ranger'

Stocks in this article: CMCSA DIS

By Jake Coyle

NEW YORK -- The minions of Despicable Me 2 ran away with the July Fourth weekend box office, leaving the Johnny Depp Western The Lone Ranger in the dust.

According to studio estimates Sunday, the Universal (CMCSA) animated sequel took in $82.5 million over the weekend and $142.1 million across the five-day holiday window. Gore Verbinski's reimagining of the iconic lawman bombed for the Walt Disney Co. (DIS), opening with just $29.4 million over the weekend, and a disappointing $48.9 million since Wednesday.

The trouncing for Disney was especially painful because of the high cost of The Lone Ranger, which reportedly cost at least $225 million to make. Made by the same team that created the lucrative Disney franchise Pirates of the Caribbean (the four-film series that grossed $3.7 billion worldwide) the Western drew bad reviews and failed to capture the attention of younger moviegoers.

"We thought it would appeal to a broader audience than it did," said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney.

Based on the long-running radio program begun in 1933 and the TV series that debuted in 1949, the Lone Ranger brand proved a musty one. The audience for the film skewed heavily toward older moviegoers, with 68 percent of its audience older than 25.

"You think that you have everything in place," said Hollis, listing the proven box-office commodities of Depp, Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. "Even when you have all the ingredients for what you think will be a four-quadrant, 'everybody' picture, sometimes it doesn't work out that way."

The poor performance of The Lone Ranger called to mind a previous bomb for Disney: last year's similarly-budgeted sci-fi adventure John Carter, which opened with $30.1 million.

But The Lone Ranger, which stars Armie Hammer as the masked lawman, will likely fare better than that disappointment, since Depp's international star power should bring in better worldwide business. It started with $24.3 million abroad, opening in about 30 percent of its planned international market.

While critics skewered the film, it did earn a B+ CinemaScore grade from moviegoers. But The Lone Ranger is nevertheless likely to be a sizable write-down for Disney and could impact the company's stock price when markets reopen Monday.

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