The box office looks like it will have some bite this weekend, as Universal/Illumination Entertainment will unleash "The Secret Life of Pets" in more than 4,000 theaters. The release of the animated film comes after an advertising campaign that has spanned over a year, and anticipation for the movie is high. It should knock "Finding Dory," the three-week box office champ, from its perch at No. 1. Fox's raunchy comedy "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" will also hit theaters, albeit with a fraction of the fanfare that "Pets" is sure to generate. Overall, the weekend's top twelve films should make about $185 million in revenue, which would be about even with last weekend and down about 11% from the same frame last year.
Though "The Secret Life of Pets" is sure to have a huge opening this weekend, one question remains: how far can this puppy go? Universal has run a tireless marketing campaign for the movie, doing everything from buying a Super Bowl commercial to showing the trailer in front of a vast array of movies over the past year. Indeed, if you've seen a movie over the past year, chances are you've seen the trailer for "Pets": it's run in front of family fare like "The Jungle Book" and "Finding Dory," but also in front of movies playing to older audiences, like "Deadpool" and "Warcraft." The all-star voice cast, featuring Louis C.K. and Kevin Hart, is also sure to generate interest among older audiences. Universal is going for a four-quadrant hit here, and it looks as though "Pets" is going to knock it out of the park for the studio.
Social media buzz for "Pets" has also been extremely strong, with its 2 million likes on Facebook more than doubling the total for "Zootopia," which has been out for four months. Twitter activity has been strong ever since the first trailer debuted, as it looks as though Millennials are responding to the movie just as strongly as kids. And films from Universal/Illumination Entertainment have generally done well over this July corridor, with "Minions" opening to $115.7 million over the same weekend last year and "Despicable Me 2" opening to $83.5 million in July 2013.
On top of that, the movie is already a box office smash in the foreign markets where it's already opened. "Pets" opened with $13.4 million in the U.K./Ireland at the end of June, good for the fourth-largest opening for an original animated film, and has opened at No. 1 in every market where it's debuted. That trend should continue when the movie opens stateside: look for "Pets" to chow down on $85 to $90 million in box office revenue this weekend.
Although "Finding Dory" will be displaced from its No. 1 spot this weekend, it won't fall very far down the box office charts. The Disney/Pixar sequel will likely be the second-highest grossing movie this weekend, although it may see a slightly steep percentage decline due to competition from "Pets." Look for the sequel to drop around 50% for a $21 million weekend and a total between $420 and $425 million.
"The Legend of Tarzan" will likely fall to the third spot. The actioner from Warner Bros. has seen solid day-to-day holds, as its word of mouth seems to be much more positive than its reviews. Even as "Tarzan" approaches the $100 million mark at the domestic box office, it remains doubtful whether or not Warner Bros. will be able to recoup its pricey $180 million budget over the course of the theatrical run. Look for the movie to fall between 45% and 50% from its opening weekend for $20 million and an $85 million cume.
Opening in fourth is likely to be R-rated comedy "Mike and Dave Needs Wedding Dates," which Fox is positioning as counter-programming to "Pets." Ironically, however, it looks as though "Pets" is going to attract a larger audience of Millennials than "Mike and Dave" will, given the social media buzz on the former film. The Fox comedy, in comparison, has had terrible social media buzz. The movie has not reached 100,000 likes on its Facebook page, and Twitter activity has been weak as well. This is a bad sign, given that the movie is targeting an audience that is very active on social media.
The film's big star, Zac Efron, should generate some interest, but Efron is no slam dunk at the box office. He couldn't keep the DJ drama "We Are Your Friends" from bombing badly last summer, and his other 2016 summer comedy, "Neighbors: Sorority Rising," was a box office disappointment. The movie may benefit from the dearth of comedies in the marketplace (outside of the PG-13 "Central Intelligence"), but moviegoers may save their money for "Ghostbusters" next weekend. "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" will likely have an opening weekend around $8 to $9 million, a poor result for a $33 million production.
It may be a close race for the fifth spot at the box office, as "The Purge: Anarchy" and "The BFG" could both claim it. "Anarchy" opened much higher than "BFG" last weekend, but the last two "Purge" films have had second-weekend drops of 76% and 65% -- not a great track record. However, "The BFG" may see a sizable drop of its own due to competition from "Pets." It will be close, but look for "The Purge: Anarchy" to edge out the Disney feature, dropping around 68% for a $10 million weekend and a total between $55 and $60 million.
A weekend recap will be posted on Monday with studio estimates.