Pets Slaughter Mike and Dave
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
July 10, 2016
The fireworks technically ended on Monday, July 4th, but Hollywood saved the box office explosion for the weekend. One of the most anticipated new intellectual properties of the year finally debuted a full year after the teaser sold everybody. Its success was a formality, but the degree of it is record-setting.
Yes, The Secret Life of Pets is the number one film in North America, absolutely obliterating the competition including the other major new release of the weekend, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. The shock is in the actual number, though. The Secret Life of Pets debuted to an estimated $103.2 million. Yes, that’s almost as much as Minions, which opened to $115.7 million, despite the fact that Pets is a new IP. It’s also almost $20 million more than Despicable Me 2, which doesn’t even seem possible.
There’s a lot to unpack with that $103.2 million number, so let’s start with the statistics then work our way back to the why of it. The Secret Life of Pets is now unequivocally the largest opening ever for a new animated property. Inside Out previously held that title with $90.4 million. What we can take from this is that audiences now view Illumination Entertainment as a brand in the same way that they’ve historically treated Pixar and, to a lesser extent, DreamWorks Animation. Pets operated as a de facto sequel to the Minions brand, substituting animals for one-eyed banana freaks. That’s amazing in and of itself and cause for the Illumination Entertainment team to strut around the office all week.
What’s more noteworthy is the larger industry perspective here. Removing the word "animated" from the equation, The Secret Life of Pets shattered some other barriers. Consider that Iron Man opened to $102.1 million. That’s an adaptation of a Marvel title rather than a truly new IP. The same is true of Spider-Man and even Deadpool, which are the first “new” movie properties to open to $100 million and the current “new” movie property record-holder for opening weekend, respectively. We’re not counting Marvel’s The Avengers here since it’s the sequel to three different Marvel characters’ films.
Every other title mentioned here existed in literary form prior to theatrical release. The same is true of other “new” films currently ahead of Pets such as Alice in Wonderland, The Hunger Games, or The Jungle Book, the last of which may fall under Pets anyway once actuals are released tomorrow. Given the above, it’s fair to state that The Secret Life of Pets is the first true original IP to open to $100 million. Universal Pictures has just achieved something truly historic here.
Why did audiences flock to a movie about lonely pets? Several explanations exist. The most obvious of them is the quality of the trailers. As mentioned above, the first teaser for Pets sold virtually everybody on the concept to the point that the movie would have performed almost as well if it’d come out that very weekend. Over the past year, interest has heightened, but when virtually everyone is already in, we’re discussing a point of diminishing returns. The Metal Poodle joke sold ten million tickets on its own. That was the gag that did all the heavy lifting for the entire marketing campaign.