‘Despicable Me’ leads North American box office

LOS ANGELES, July 11 (BestGrowthStock) – “Despicable Me,” a new
family cartoon featuring the voice of Steve Carell, easily took
the top spot at the weekend box office in North America on
Sunday, virtually assuring Universal Pictures of a lucrative
franchise with its first foray into 3D animation.

The film earned an estimated $60.1 million across the
United States and Canada during the three days beginning
Friday, the General Electric Co. (GE.N: ) unit said, doubling
pre-opening forecasts.

It was produced for about $69 million by former 20th
Century Fox animation chief Chris Meledandri’s new company,
Illumination Entertainment, which has an exclusive financing
and distribution deal with Universal.

Carell, star of “The Office,” supplies the voice of Gru, an
ineffective supervillain whose quest to steal the moon is
interrupted by three orphaned girls who see him as a father
figure. Critics approved of the picture, noting its obvious
debt to the Pixar canon.

Another new entrant to exceed modest expectations was
“Predators,” a revival of a franchise originated in 1987 by
Arnold Schwarzenegger. The new film, starring Adrien Brody,
opened at No. 3 with $25.3 million, up from a pre-opening
estimate in the low $20 million range.

Released by News Corp’s (NWSA.O: ) 20th Century Fox,
“Predators” was also a low-budget production, with a reported
price tag of $38 million.

Last weekend’s champion, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” fell
to No. 2 with $33.4 million. Its 12-day total stands at $237.0
million, just ahead of the $236 million that its immediate
predecessor, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” had earned in the
same period last November. The vampire series was released by
privately-held Summit Entertainment.

“Toy Story 3” slipped one place to No. 4 with $22 million,
taking its total to $340.2 million after four weekends. If
estimates hold when final data are released on Monday, it will
have surpassed the $339.7 million total of “Finding Nemo” to
become the biggest film in the history of Walt Disney Co’s
(DIS.N: ) Pixar Animation unit.

Yet another family film, “The Last Airbender,” fell three
places to No. 5, with $17.2 million in its second weekend.
Director M. Night Shyamalan’s adaptation of a Nickelodeon
cartoon series has earned $100.2 million to date, said
Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc. (VIAb.N: ).

(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Paul Simao)

‘Despicable Me’ leads North American box office