Weekend Box Office: The Secret Is Out

While Disney has been on fire at the box office this year, the results of this weekend pose a new question to consider: Are Disney’s movies the reason for the studio’s success, or are family audiences simply starving for new content? Family films are absolutely killing it this year!

Heading into the weekend, Universal and Illumination’s ‘The Secret Life of Pets‘ was certain to dethrone four-week-old ‘Finding Dory’ and take the top spot at the box office. Even so, no one predicted that it would be as huge a success as it was. From 4,370 locations, the animated comedy was expected to earn at least $80 million. In reality, it closed the weekend with $103.1 million, making it the sixth film in history to debut north of the $100 million mark. The movie will slowly roll out internationally over the next three months, but so far it has earned $42.6 million overseas, giving it a worldwide total of $145.7 million, which is excellent for a $75 million picture.

As big as ‘Pets’ was, the biggest surprise of the weekend comes from ‘The Legend of Tarzan‘. I expected the Razzie-quality blockbuster to swan dive into shallow water in its second week, but following last week better-than-expected opening, it also had a much better-than-expected holdover. Falling just 46%, ‘Tarzan’ retained the #2 spot with $20.6 million, giving it a domestic ten-day total of $81.4 million. Internationally, it has grossed $54 million to date, for a worldwide total of $135.4 million. The pricy $180 million picture has a ways to go to become profitable, but with many more large markets still to open in, it stands a chance.

It took the competition from ‘Secret Life of Pets’ for ‘Finding Dory‘ to fall to third place just behind ‘Tarzan’. In its fourth week, the ‘Finding Nemo’ sequel slipped 51%. The additional $20.3 million brings its domestic total up to $422.5 million, which gives it two records: domestic highest grossing Pixar title of all-time and the domestic highest-grossing picture of 2016. The highest grossing animated record holder is still ‘Shrek 2’ ($441.2 million), which ‘Dory’ is less than $19 million away from toppling. Internationally, ‘Dory’ has made $220.2 million, for a worldwide total of $642.7 million.

‘The Secret Life of Pets’ wasn’t the only newcomer to exceed expectations. Predicted to open in the $12 million range, the R-rated comedy ‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates‘ finished in the #4 spot with $16.6 million. Internationally, it pulled $3.7 million, giving it a $20.3 million worldwide opening. Not too shabby for a $33 million picture, right?

Rounding out the Top 5 was week-old horror-thriller ‘The Purge: Election Year‘. After dropping 63% (typical for the genre), it still scared up $11.7 million. The $10 million sequel sits with a domestic ten-day total of $58.1 million, making it yet another low-budget horror success.

The Top 10 was unexpectedly rounded out by the Bollywood drama ‘Sultan‘, which kicked off at 283 locations with an impressive $2.2 million. The film’s international release has yet to launch, but is expected to draw equally large results.

Playing on four screens, the Cannes-praised drama ‘Captain Fantastic‘ drew $98,451 and a great per-screen average of $24,613.

Opening weekend numbers have yet to be announced for the John Cusack/Samuel L. Jackson thriller ‘Cell’.

Top 10:

1. ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ (Universal) – $103,170,000

2. ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ (Warner Bros.) – $20,615,000

3. ‘Finding Dory’ (Buena Vista) – $20,351,000

4. ‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’ (Fox) – $16,600,000

5. ‘The Purge: Election Year’ (Universal) – $11,700,000

6. ‘Central Intelligence’ (Warner Bros.) – $8,125,000

7. ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ (Fox) – $7,700,000

8. ‘The BFG’ (Buena Vista) – $7,604,000

9. ‘The Shallows’ (Sony) – $4,800,000

10. ‘Sultan’ (Yash) – $2,216,475


  1. Very imressive opening from Pets. I didn’t see that coming at all. But, surely, you must mean it’s the sixth _animated_ movie with a $100M+ opening?

    It also slowed down Dory quite effectively. I’m getting slightly worried it might not break through $500M as easily as I first thought.

  2. “‘The Secret Life of Pets‘ was certain to dethrone four-week-old ‘Finding Dory’ and take the top spot at the box office. Even so, no one predicted that it would be as huge a success as it was.”

    Was it really certain? It seemed like an ‘under-the-radar’ release to me. I noticed little fanfare, buzz, or anticipation. No ‘You must watch this trailer or else you’re missing out!’ stories. Was it hyped in the United States prior to its release date?

    • William Henley

      It got pretty good hype on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, both of which are networks that appeal to kids. School is out, parents are looking for stuff to do with kids, Finding Dory is four weeks old, so its fair to predict that any new family film to come out would beat it. The question is going to be how much it will drop next week.

      Pretty much, hype or not, any movie targeted for families is going to do well in the US on its opening weekend if it doesn’t have much competition in its category.

      I doubt it will do as well over the life of the movie though – Ghostbusters opens this weekend (while not targeting the same audiences, there are a lot of crossover between the two so it should eat a lot into Secret Lives of Pet’s audience) and the week after that, Ice Age opens up. While Ice Age may not have a strong opening weekend, it should have a good three weeks until Pete’s Dragon opens. Pete’s Dragon should do REALLY well, because Ice Age will be four weeks old by then, and its the last family friendly release of the summer, so it should do well over the month of August, although many schools in the US do start back in mid-August (Schools in my area start back the week of August 22)

      • William Henley

        I should note that The BFG, while a family movie, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it preformed so poorly. Roald Dahl’s works are kind of hit or miss when taken to movie format. Now I don’t think any of his previous movies really bombed, but none were really big hits either (Willy Wonka, even though it is fondly remembered by many, was the fifty third highest grossing film of the YEAR in 1971, earning only 2.1 million on its opening weekend, which, adjusted for inflation, is only $12.4 million. A lot of Dahl’s works are considered weird and kind of scary, which will scare away families with very young children

      • I was about to mention Ice Age myself. I’d originally completely written it off as a huge movie this summer. But, the success of Pets, and the suggestion that family movies in general are killing it at the box office at the moment, does make me wonder if it can do a lot better than I orignally thought. No Ice Age movie has grossed more than $200M, though.

  3. Csm101

    I’m glad Secret Lives of Pets opened so well. It was a fun little movie and on top of that, we have a pool going on what summer blockbusters will make the most money, and Pets is one of mine! Great news😀

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