The Minions Sure Know How to Rake in the Big Bucks

This past summer has had numerous box office hits, including the worldwide release of Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Spiderman: Homecoming, Dunkirk, Cars 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales, Baywatch, Atomic Blonde, and Despicable Me 3, which happened to bring in the most revenue at over $1,005,854,581 and was ranked second-biggest animated opening of all time (The Numbers). So how does a film, like Despicable Me 3, generate all of this revenue?


The blockbuster film emerged in the 1960s when Hollywood studios were experiencing financial difficulties due to the Paramount Decree, where these films helped the studios to “differentiate their products from the supply of competing media, such as television and helped revive the theater as a privileged place for the film experience and high quality entertainment,” stated Tanner Mirrlees (Designing Global Entertainment Media, 2013).

In fact, some of the biggest blockbuster films that were mass marketed and released, was George Lucas’s Star Wars and the hit film Jaws– along with many others. These films emphasized the exchange value of high-concept, mass-marketed, mass-released, and mass-targeted films, complemented with synergetic merchandising.

Blockbusters are able to stand out from the rest of films as they have large budgets, are marketed globally as high-concept and “must see” events, have big releases, and are designed to create as much revenue as possible, not only by collecting box office receipts, but by also spinning off commodities.  They also target a global, rather than a national based audience.

MINIONS The Despicable Me franchise has shown that there is life outside Pixar and Disney, both commercially and artistically in the blockbuster animation world. Despicable Me features the “despicable” character of Gru, and its little yellow creatures that are shaped like Tic-Tacs, in my opinion.

With Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment as the main production companies, the overall budget of the film was estimated at about $80 million, nearly matched by its $75 million opening weekend (IMDb). The 90-minute film, however, did not look as promising as the previous Minions and Despicable Me 2. In fact, the opening weekend was 14% lower than Despicable Me 2 and 37% lower than the Minions had opened up with (The Numbers).

The PG animated film raked in over $260 million in domestic revenue and over $748 million in foreign revenue. The largest foreign market was China, raking in over $158 million, with Japan coming in second at over $61 million (Box Office Mojo).

Its strategic marketing also had a lot to do with its success. Bloomberg reported that Universal’s parent company, Comcast, and its partners spent a combined $593 million publicizing the film, with less than half going towards traditional TV and print ads. The Minions have truly taken over the market appearing on merchandise, Tic-Tac packages, Chiquita Bananas, iPhone cases, Twinkies, etc.

Another franchise that has done well outside of the U.S. is the Ice Age franchise, where more than 80% of its revenue comes from the foreign box office. In fact, the fifth installment bombed its U.S. opening but went on to succeed in the global market (The Numbers). Opposite of this foreign success, Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets both had stellar runs at the U.S. box office, where Finding Dory was able to gross over $782 million globally.

Feel free to respond with your own personal opinions on how the Minions and the Despicable Me franchise has continued to succeed over the past few years. Are you a fan? Or, are you surprised at how successful this animated franchise has become?

Link to the trailer:

-Savannah Necker

3 thoughts on “The Minions Sure Know How to Rake in the Big Bucks

  1. I think that one of the reasons it has done so well outside of the US, is due to the uniqueness of the minions and their ability to be interpreted in the same way no matter the culture or language. Minions speak their own language (occasionally sounding like a mix of random English/Spanish words) but because the characters have such universal personalities, it was able to translate well to other countries. Personally, I think the minion movies are cute, yet I never would have guessed they would become so successful. Mostly this surprise is because after veering off to the movie Minions, I believe the plot quality fell a bit. However this is only an opinion, and Minions still was a successful movie that showed the origins of the creatures, something that Despicable Me left to the imagination.

    1. I completely agree! Because their language is gibberish and the audience relies on the facial expressions and actions to translate the story, Minions jumps through all the hoops of culture and language. Instead, it relies on the shared experience of laughing.

      What surprises me about the Minions is how much merchandising there is. I’ve seen Minion costumes for Halloween, key chains, backpacks, folders, notebooks, string bags. The film is not only family-funny, but marketable. Because the little yellow faces are so identifiable as the Minions, it makes selling these quirky items even simpler.

  2. I thing i think it does so well is because of the Minion gibberish. Since it isn’t one actual language, they don’t have to format it for other languages. Everyone hears them how the creator wanted them to be heard. No language barrier.

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