Weekend Box Office: ‘Secret Life Of Pets’ Just Had The Best ‘Original’ Opening EVER

Going into the weekend, most analysts had The Secret Life Of Pets projected to earn between $70 and $80 million, which would’ve been massive for an original, non-sequel, animated movie. Many assumed that Finding Dory‘s still prominent place in theaters would hurt another animated film somehow. Instead, Pets, from Universal’s Illumination animation (they of Minions, Despicable Me, The Lorax), smashed expectations to earn $103 million domestically, “the biggest opening weekend ever for a ‘not based on anything’ original motion picture.”

You have to look pretty far down the list of biggest weekends to find a non-sequel or non-adaptation — number 36, to be precise. Next closest is Inside Out, at 51, with $90.4 million.

To what can we attribute The Secret Life of Pets’ success?

“What a brilliant concept. We all have pets. And this is what they do when we’re away,” said one non-Universal executive this morning about the Illumination pic’s mass appeal. [Deadline]

High-level analysis there. I can’t believe the exec wanted to stay anonymous. Why not claim credit for an incendiary take like that? Really watch the laurels pile up at your feet.

“Illumination just has a way of creating ‘want to see’ movies,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief. “They make movies that resonate with audiences.” [Variety]

Well, there you have it. “Everyone has pets” and “people wanted to see it” are the secret to Secret‘s success.

The film received an A- Cinemascore from an audience that was 59% female, 57% over 25, and 40% pet owners. It rated 76% recommended from critics on RottenTomatoes.

Elsewhere, Finding Dory continued to play, adding $20.4 million and surpassing The Lion King to become Disney’s highest-grossing animated movie ever (not adjusted for inflation), with $423 million. Even The Legend of Tarzan, which many people thought was done for after its sub-par opening last weekend, declined only 46.5% from last weekend and added $20.6 million. That brings its cumulative domestic gross to $81.4 million, meaning it still has a ways to go to earn back its $180 million budget. Applying the unidentified exec’s logic from above, the film’s performance was most likely hurt by the fact that so few Americans can boast of being orphaned aristocrats raised by apes.

In addition to Secret Life of Pets, this weekend’s other wide opener was Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, based on the real-life exploits of Mike and Dave Stangle, who at one point needed wedding dates. MADNW earned $16.6 million on a reported budget of $33 million putting it into the category of “pretty good,” according to Forbes. Its performance is even more impressive considering it felt like a not particularly inspired mash-up of 12 other wedding comedies, albeit with female versions of the traditional dude-bro leads. Call it a win for lazily-written ladybros. It received a B Cinemascore to go with its 41% among RottenTomato critics.

Not so lucky was Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, which according to Variety now “definitively ranks as one of the year’s biggest flops,” after dropping 59.5% from its already bad opening, giving it a cumulative domestic box office of $38.7 million, on a $140 million budget. Maybe the title was a problem? I doubt your average parent knew the F was supposed to stand for “Friendly.”

Most shocking box office fact this week? Now You See Me 2 has now grossed $238 million worldwide. F*cking magicians, man. Next week brings us Lady Ghostbusters and The Infiltrator, starring Bryan Cranston as a customs agent who busts a drug cartel. By the way, are drugs the only business that comes in cartels? Are they like groups of animals? Drug cartel, real estate flock, commodities murder? Discuss.

Film Weekend Per Screen
1 The Secret Life of Pets $103,170,000 $23,609 $103,170,000
2 The Legend of Tarzan $20,615,000 (-46.5) $5,741 $81,412,000
3 Finding Dory $20,351,000 (-51.3) $5,257 $422,580,000
4 Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates $16,600,000 $5,567 $16,600,000
5 The Purge: Election Year $11,700,000 (-62.9) 
$4,147 $58,110,000
6 Central Intelligence $8,125,000 (-35.1) $2,860 $108,325,000
7 Independence Day: Resurgence $7,700,000  (-53.9) $2,516 $91,495,000
8 The BFG $7,604,000 (-59.5) $2,242 $38,738,000
9 The Shallows $4,800,000 (-45.3) $1,995 $45,825,000
10 Sultan $2,216,000 $7,832 $3,228,000

[chart via ScreenCrush]