Illumination Entertainment made a big name for itself three years ago when Despicable Me became one of summer 2010's biggest breakout hits. The original film not only opened to a strong $56.4 million, it also won over both critics and families in the long run. The film's $251.5 million domestic haul and exceptional 4.46 multiplier from its debut weekend guaranteed a sequel would be coming down the pike.
To the delight of Minion fans everywhere, that sequel is almost here.
Four weeks out from release, Despicable Me 2 is making a strong case on Twitter. Its five-day tweet total from June 5-9 was a whopping 884 percent higher than its predecessor during the comparable time period.
Given that film's lack of established recognition at the time, it's wiser to compare against other animated sequels. For example, the second Despicable's Twitter activity is 165 percent ahead of Cars 2, 252 percent ahead of Ice Age: Continental Drift, and 532 percent ahead of Kung Fu Panda 2. The Gru sequel even posted an 80 percent lead over Toy Story 3, but by the same token, Twitter's user base and the movie presence among it have expanded significantly since then.
Despicable Me 2: 14,203 tweets
Ice Age: Continental Drift: 4,030 tweets
Cars 2: 5,367 tweets
Kung Fu Panda 2: 2,249 tweets
Toy Story 3: 7,912 tweets
Facebook tracking is equally encouraging. Despicable Me 2's 8.37 million fan total through June 10 was 162 percent up on Cars 2 and 149 percent ahead of Kung Fu Panda 2.
Despicable Me 2: 8.37 million fans
Cars 2: 3.19 million fans
Kung Fu Panda 2: 3.36 million fans
Lastly, Flixster results back up the buzz from the other two networks. Despicable Me 2 has a very impressive 99 percent "want to see" score from over 57,664 users at 22 days from release--53 percent more voters than Cars 2 and 60 percent more than Panda 2. Not only is it pulling a higher volume of votes, but the actual anticipation level is crushing that of our comparison titles. (Note: Flixster data not available pre-2011.)
Despicable Me 2: 99 percent "want to see"
Ice Age: Continental Drift: 92 percent "want to see"
Cars 2: 89 percent "want to see"
Kung Fu Panda 2: 91 percent "want to see"
While the film's strong online buzz is to be expected on some level, the fact that it's outpacing similar films across all three metrics is particularly important. The recent success of Fox's Epic also validates how hungry the family market is this summer, lending even more of an advantage to an established brand.
Signs are indicative that Despicable Me 2 should avoid the pitfalls of the Cars and Panda sequels in 2011, both of which disappointed the industry by declining from their predecessors' domestic box office hauls. At its current rate, Universal's and Illumination's new franchise looks more likely to head down the trail blazed by 1999's Toy Story 2 and 2004's Shrek 2, each of which expanded upon the original films' audiences (the latter in a more explosive way).
The BoxOffice team is currently forecasting an $80 million three-day opening weekend (after debuting on Wednesday, July 3) and a $353 million domestic gross for Despicable Me 2. As always, keep reading BoxOffice.com for further analysis and updates to those figures as the film's release nears.
Alex Edghill contributed to this article
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The Despicable Me 2 trailer: