The Minions have done it again.
The yellow stars of "Despicable Me 3" catapulted the Universal picture to the top box-office spot besting fellow new releases — Sony's "Baby Driver" and Warner Bros.' "The House" — to start the Fourth of July stretch.
"Despicable Me 3," from powerhouse Illumination Entertainment, pulled in an estimated $75.4 million in the U.S. and Canada. While anticipation was high for the latest in the computer-animated series, the film failed to meet analysts' $85-million to $100-million expectations. Last summer, Illumination had a huge hit with "The Secret Life of Pets."
The picture also did not reach the $116 million the 2015 spinoff "Minions" grossed in its first weekend.
Still, Illumination has proved a formidable competitor in the crowded animation business by making successful movies that cost about $75 million to produce — considerably less than Pixar and DreamWorks Animation films. The gibberish-speaking, pill-shaped Minions have become inescapable marketing devices, taking over New York cabs and the stars on Amazon's customer review system. The tiny henchmen propelled "Minions" to more than $1 billion in global receipts.
Audiences appear still infatuated with the franchise, with moviegoers (69% families) giving it an A-minus CinemaScore. Critics felt otherwise as the picture has a 63% Rotten Tomatoes score.
Internationally, "Despicable Me 3" has grossed $116.9 million to date. It again stars Steve Carell as the voice of criminal mastermind Gru, as well as his long-lost twin brother Dru. The film also features the voices of Kristen Wiig and Trey Parker.
"Baby Driver," from TriStar Pictures, MRC, Working Title, and Big Talk Pictures, debuted in second place with an estimated $21 million over the weekend. The Edgar Wright-directed action flick pulled in a total of $30 million since opening Wednesday, well above projections of $15 million to $22 million domestically.
"Edgar and our partners have made one of the most original and entertaining films in recent memory," said Adrian Smith, the studio's distribution chief. "We are so thrilled to see it received as bona fide hit in a crowded summer season."
The well-reviewed (97% Rotten Tomatoes rating), high-concept action comedy is the latest from the British director known for "Shaun of the Dead" and "The World's End." About a young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) who needs to constantly listen to music to overcome chronic tinnitus and do his job, the $34-million picture also stars Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Eiza González among others.
Audiences flocked to the picture and were pleased giving it an A-minus CinemaScore.
Landing in third was Paramount's "Transformers: The Last Knight." In its second week, the picture brought in $17 million, a 62% drop from its debut weekend. Domestically, the film has grossed $102 million to date.
Warner Bros.' "Wonder Woman" continues to soar, landing in fourth place in its fifth week with $15.6 million. Domestically, the Patty Jenkins live action superhero flick has brought in $346.1 million to date. It's pulled $361.8 million internationally for a worldwide gross to date of $707.9 million.
Rounding out the top five was Disney's "Cars 3" with $9.5 million in its third week. It's grossed $120.7 million to date.
The only other new release, Warner Bros.' parents-gone-bad comedy "The House," fizzled with a sixth place debut at $9 million. Analysts hoped for at least a $12-million opening of the New Line Cinema and Village Roadshow Pictures movie starring Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell as parents who start an illegal casino to send their daughter to college. This is at least the third R-rated comedy that has struggled for attention this summer amid the big-budget action including Scarlett Johansson's "Rough Night" and Amy Schumer's "Snatched."
As the holiday weekend continues in the Fourth of July on Tuesday, Sony will release "Spider-Man: Homecoming" on Friday.