Illumination Entertainment’s “The Secret Life of Pets” unexpectedly dominated the weekend’s box office.
The comedic 3D computer-animated family film is the latest release from Illumination, the company that delivered the highly successful “Despicable Me” and its big-screen offshoot “Minions.”
With competition typically benefiting a movie hungry public, entertainment’s rising studio is looking more and more like a genuine alternative to animation giant Pixar. With its higher-than-expected $103 million debut weekend, “Pets” managed to dethrone Pixar's “Finding Dory.”
It also took the crown for having the best opening for a non-sequel, non-spin-off animated film, beating the $90 million debut of Pixar's “Inside Out.”
“Pets” represents Illumination’s second best opening, with “Minions” $116 million premiere last year being tops.
Entertainment industry insiders had been predicting that the enduring box-office success of “Finding Dory,” which had won three consecutive weekends, would beat Illumination’s film and push its numbers down.
The expected box office for “Pets” was in the $70 to $80 million range.
Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri was personally involved in the making of “Pets,” having co-produced the movie with veteran producer Janet Healy.
Together the duo kept production costs down to a relatively low $75 million.
Considering the record-breaking revenue the film is likely to bring in, it is a safe bet that it will land solidly in the profit column.
Audiences polled by CinemaScore have given the movie an average grade of A minus on an A plus to F scale.
“Pets” utilizes the same cinematic elements that have paid off big-time for Pixar.
Human-like animal characters, feel-good relationships, exciting adventures, lurking dangers, slapstick sight gags, and a catchy soundtrack (complete with songs from the iconic “Grease” film) come together to create a winning formula.
Mix in the marketing and merchandising opportunities, and it is sheer mega-million-dollar magic. The movie actually drew more adults than had been anticipated.
Interestingly, the over 25 demographic comprised 57 percent of the “Pets” audience. This stat suggests that the film’s appeal is a much more wide-reaching one than a mere pops, moms, and kids audience.
The creators of “Pets” have delightfully capitalized on America’s love affair with its furry, fluffy, feathered, and otherwise adorned companions. What is also enchantingly exploited in the film is the desire of pet lovers the world over to know the exact kind of mischief that takes place when the front door closes behind them.
The voice acting work in “Pets” is exemplary, thanks to a group of comedic veterans that includes Louis C.K., who plays Max, the protagonist Jack Russell terrier; Kevin Hart, the voice of Snowball, who is a malevolent little jaded bunny rabbit; and Jenny Slate, who brings to life Gidget a fuzzy white, telenovela-loving, fierce fighting Pomeranian.
As the plot unfolds, Max’s owner Katie returns home with a shocking surprise for her adoring little pup, a much bigger dog named Duke, who is voiced by Eric Stonestreet.
The two dogs inadvertently become entangled with a sewer-dwelling gang of disgruntled pets, led by pet boss Snowball, who is a deceptively cute but rotten to the core.
Not to worry, though, love wins in the end.
A heads-up for parents and grandparents of little ones: There are some dark themes and scary figures that are woven throughout the film. Judge whether or not it is deemed appropriate for your own children and grandchildren as it relates to individual sensibilities rather than the age of the child.
The entertainment business community has been concerned about the summer box-office.
After a string of big-budget bombs, “Pets” appears to be bringing back a sense of optimism to the boardroom, illustrating the profit power of family fare, especially when it comes to animated flicks.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.