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2013 Most Valuable Blockbuster – How The Minions Came To Rule Hollywood

Mike Fleming

Well, now that Universal‘s Despicable Me 2 has proven itself 2013′s Most Valuable Blockbuster, the film’s impresario, Illumination Entertainment founder Chris Meledandri (below), deserves to take a victory lap. More seriously, the tournament was conducted to give a clearer idea, beyond the weekend and annual box office standings, of the profits and Total Cash on Cash returns that films generate. These are the factors that keep studios in business and keep co-financiers coming back for more. As a final cap, Deadline Hollywood provides readers with the revenue and costs charts of all 16 films that participated in the inaugural tournament. This data was always expected to be the most memorable part of this exercise.

Despicable Me 2 Chris Meledandri Profit

As a refresher, here’s how our tournament played out, with links to each game: Read More »

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Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Sets Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet And Kevin Hart For 3D Animated ‘Pets’ Pic At Universal

Mike Fleming

UNTITLED_PET_PROJECT_Image_(2)EXCLUSIVE: Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures have been reserving prime release date real estate for secret family film projects. Deadline has the details on the one that will be released on February 12, 2016. Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri has set Louis C.K., Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet and Ride Along’s Kevin Hart to voice the main characters in what is being called the Untitled Pets Movie. Meledandri is producing the 3D animated film with longtime collaborator Janet Healy. Chris Renaud, who helmed the first two Despicable Me films for Illumination, will direct this one, and the co-director is Yarrow Cheney, who helmed a short that will be part of The Minions DVD release. The script was written by Despicable Me scribes Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio.

louisericThis becomes the fifth animated film for Illumination and a return to an original property, and the Pets pic marks the first animated studio feature that Louis C.K, Stonestreet and Hart have taken part in. Here’s the logline: the action comedy is set in a Manhattan apartment building. After the two-legged residents head for work and school, their pets gather to start their day, which consists of hanging out, trading humiliating stories about their owners, and helping each other work up adorable looks that will lead to more snacks. The head hound is a quick-witted terrier rescue (Louis C.K.), whose position at the epicenter of his master’s universe is suddenly threatened when she comes home with Duke (Stonestreet), a sloppy mongrel with no polish. The two soon find themselves on the mean streets of New York, where they meet the adorable white bunny Snowball (Hart). It turns out that Snowball is the leader of an army of pets that were abandoned and are determined to get back at humanity and every owner-loving pet. The dogs must thwart this plot and make it back in time for dinner. Read More »

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‘Despicable Me 3′ Set For June 2017 Release; ‘Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ Arrives Five Months Later

By | Wednesday January 15, 2014 @ 2:22pm PST

despicable_me_2Universal Pictures has announced dates on three upcoming high-profile projects and it means more Minions on the menu, along with a big helping of Grinch: the third installment of its incredibly successful animated franchise Despicable Me 3, and a “newly imagined” version of Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and a new – wait, let’s read that again – an untitled animated comedy from Despicable Me makers Illumination Entertainment that says its “an original … project 2,” whatever that means.

Related: Best Box Office Ever? Biggest Hollywood Franchises Explode In 2015 On Historic Collision Course

Anyway, Gru, Lucy, the girls and the minions are coming back to a megaplex near you — in 3 1/2 years. Universal today announced a June 30, 2017, date for Despicable Me 3, the follow-up to last year’s first sequel, which has grossed $935.8M worldwide and just opened in it last territory, China. The studio also revealed dates for two other Illumination Entertainment toons: a new version of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (November 17, 2017) and Untitled Illumination Project 2016 2 (December 21, 2016).

Today’s announcements set up a couple of potentially interesting box office battles — if all the dates hold. But it’s a big if. DM3′s release is set for two weeks after both Disney/Pixar and Fox/DWA/Blue Sky have untitled projects set for release (June 16, 2017). Also, Grinch is set for five days before the bow of an untitled Pixar toon. Read More »

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‘Despicable Me 2′ Breaks Blu-Ray, Digital Sales Records In $80M Home Vid Debut

despicable_me_2Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment‘s Despicable Me 2 took in $80 million in physical and digital sales and sold roughly 4.5 million units in its first week of home entertainment release, the companies announced today. The animated sequel has now become the best-selling animated Blu-ray title in its first week, surpassing 2010′s Despicable Me which previously held that distinction. Digital consumption is also strong, as Despicable Me 2 additionally hit #1 as the best first-week digital sales of all time. Theatrically the pic, starring Steve Carell as the lovable supervillain Gru, has raked in over $918 worldwide. The Despicable Me franchise is nearing $1.5 billion in worldwide box office.

Related: ‘Despicable Me 2′s’ Chris Meledandri Talks Humor, Heart, Minions And The Future Of Illumination: Video

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Marketing Wiz Eddie Egan Exiting Universal After 19 Years

By | Tuesday November 19, 2013 @ 5:26pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Eddie Egan, who in May 2011 moved from his post as domestic marketing president to take a senior post at Chris Meledandri’s Universal-based Illumination Entertainment, is leaving the studio where he has worked for nearly the past two decades. I’m told it was a mutual decision to move on. Egan made the move after overseeing the marketing of such Universal hits as Fast Five and Bridesmaids; after moving over, the Illumination films he worked on included Despicable Me 2, which is the bridesmaid behind Jurassic Park in the title of the studio’s biggest-grossing film ever with a worldwide tally of more than $916 million. Egan also worked closely on such Illumination product as Despicable Me and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Ron Meyer just sent out an internal note confirming the exit. While it usually takes awhile to get the full story of what happened when any exec departs, you don’t usually get this kind of send off if you aren’t well liked and respected. Here’s Meyer’s note:

Dear Coworkers:

After 19 years together, I am saddened to share that Eddie Egan is leaving Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment. Eddie has been an instrumental part of our success for almost two decades and he is one of the most uniformly respected and admired executives in our company. His passion and dedication have played a critical role in building Universal’s marketing organization, which is one of the best in the business. He’s also been a huge leader in the effort to grow and expand our family entertainment brand, Illumination Entertainment.

Eddie’s credits with Universal are almost too lengthy to list, but one of his biggest and most recent contributions has been in establishing Despicable Me as a global tent pole franchise with Despicable Me 2 currently boasting worldwide grosses of more than $916 million. He has helped make Illumination Entertainment an animation powerhouse with the success of Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and the smash hit, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.

Below is a note from Chris Meledandri about Eddie and another from Eddie to all of you:

Read More »

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‘Despicable Me 2′ To Cross $500M Overseas

By | Saturday September 28, 2013 @ 8:23am PDT

Illumination Entertainment’s and Universal Pictures’ megahit toon sequel has grossed $498.4M internationally and will cross $500M at the overseas box office today. Despicable Me 2 is still playing at 3,000 dates in 41 territories right now and becomes the 10th highest grossing animated film of all time internationally. Combined with the U.S. estimated gross of $361.9M, the worldwide total will be $863.7M by Sunday after opening in Japan and South Africa. Pic is the second highest grossing film worldwide this year (behind Iron Man 3‘s $1.2B) and is Universal’s second highest grossing film of all time behind only Jurassic Park. Five territories yet to open: Serbia & Montenegro and Slovenia on Oct 3, Turkey on Oct 4, and Greece and Italy on Oct 10.

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‘Despicable Me’ Minions Spinoff Pushed To July 10, 2015

By | Friday September 20, 2013 @ 10:27am PDT

Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s Minions in 3D will be released on July 10, 2015. It originally was slated for release on December 19, 2014. In addition, the release date for Illumination’s Untitled Project in 3D will move from July 3, 2015, to February 12, 2016. As of now, Minions has the July 10, 2015, date to itself. Oscar winner Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm lead the Minions voice cast in the pic that centers on the iconic characters introduced in the 2010 and 2013 films. The CG comedy adventure is produced by Illumination’s Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy and directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda Brian Lynch penned the screenplay. Chris Renaud serves as executive producer.

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UPDATE: ‘Despicable Me 2′ Puts $50M In International Till Before Domestic Release

SUNDAY UPDATE: Illumination Entertainment‘s and Universal‘s 3D sequel Despicable Me 2 opened this weekend as one of the top 4 films internationally for the weekend alongside Man Of Steel, World War Z and Monsters University. All its rivals are playing in 40+ territories against DM2‘s seven markets. Yet the new toon opened #1 in five of its 6 new territories this weekend for a cumulative total of $50M through Sunday from the UK-Ireland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, French-speaking Switzerland, and Sweden as well as Australia which debuted last weekend. As a comparison in the same seven territories, DM2 is performing well ahead of the original Despicable Me as well as DreamWorks sequels Kung Fu Panda 2 and Madagascar 2 and 3. Gru and his manic minions open in North America in limited release Tuesday night and go wide on Wednesday before the Fourth Of July holiday. Expectations are for new records in the 38 territories with the U.S./Canada opening next weekend. Here’s a territory by territory breakdown: Read More »

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Minions Down Under: ‘Despicable Me 2′ Starts International Roll-Out Before U.S.

Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me 2 is having its Los Angeles premiere today and doesn’t arrive in North American theaters until July 3. But the 3D toon opened this weekend in Australia to get a jump start on the Australian school holidays which begin on Monday. ”Early results are terrific!” a studio exec gushed. On Thursday it grossed $466K at 275 locations or 55% higher than Despicable Me’s opening day in Australia. On Friday, the sequel grossed another $690K which is 35% higher than Despicable Me’s first Friday in that territory. The film was 2nd only to new release World War Z for the two days and beat Pixar‘s Monsters University opening. DM2‘s estimated cume starting with two days of paid previews last weekend and through the official release is $3.2M. (FYI, this photo is a first because Despicable Me 2‘s flags are occupying the space usually filled by Sydney’s official flags in the busiest pedestrian thoroughfare of Martin Place.) The 2010 original grossed $540M worldwide and became the 10th biggest animated motion picture in U.S. history. Sequel reunites Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri and fellow producer Janet Healy, directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, and writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, Steve Carell as Gru and Miranda Cosgrove as Margo. Russell Brand also is back as Dr. Nefario while Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Moises Arias, Steve Coogan and Ken Jeong join the cast for more Minion madness.

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Benjamin Bratt Replaces Al Pacino On ‘Despicable Me 2′

Mike Fleming

Related: Say Goodbye To My Little Friend: Al Pacino Exits Summer Sequel ‘Despicable Me’

EXCLUSIVE: Well, that didn’t take long. Benjamin Bratt has stepped in to voice the villain Eduardo in Despicable Me 2. He replaces Al Pacino, who exited the project over creative differences with Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment. He’s getting to work right away on a film that Universal is counting on for a major summer release that begins July 3. Despicable Me 2 is the fourth film from Illumination Entertainment and the sequel to its 2010 hit  Despicable Me, one of Universal’s most profitable films ever, with north of $540 million worldwide on a $69 million budget. The sequel is directed by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, and scripted by Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio, with Illumination founder Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy producing. Bratt, whose credits include Snitch, La Mission, The Woodsman and Traffic, is repped by WME, Circle of Confusion and attorney Robert Myman.

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Say Goodbye To My Little Friend: Al Pacino Exits Summer Sequel ‘Despicable Me 2′

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Here is a shocker. Al Pacino and Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment have parted company on Despicable Me 2. Pacino had long ago signed to provide the voice of the film’s villain, Eduardo, in the follow-up to the 2010 hit. The surprise here is timing: the film has a July 3 release date, and this occurred on the first weekend of summer film releases. Pacino had done a lot of the voice work, but ultimately his last-minute exit came down to creative difference. The studio and Chris Meledandri’s Illumination are in the process of landing someone to take over and I’m told there is time to get all this done and not imperil the film’s release date. Animation makes that much easier; no re-shoots.

Related: Benjamin Bratt Replaces Al Pacino On ‘Despicable Me 2′

The studio confirmed Pacino’s exit, and gave me this statement: “Over the production of Despicable Me 2, there were creative differences between us and Al Pacino, who had been cast as the voice of Eduardo in the film. We have mutually decided with Al to replace the voice of Eduardo with a new actor. Universal and Illumination thank Al for his many contributions to the process and look forward to a new actor bringing this memorable character to the screen upon its release this summer.” Read More »

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At Illumination, Jon Hamm Lends Voice To ‘Minions’ Movie; Tito Ortiz Returns As Executive

By | Tuesday April 30, 2013 @ 1:06pm PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Mad Men star Jon Hamm has signed on to provide the lead voice (alongside Sandra Bullock) in Minions, the Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment spinoff of the Despicable Me franchise. Bullock is set to voice Scarlet Overkill, a stylish bad-ass super-villain who is (what else?) bent on world domination. Hamm will voice her husband, the inventor Herb Overkill. The 3D CG animated comedy has been set for release December 19, 2014.

At the same time, veteran animated feature film executive Tito Ortiz has returned to Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment in the position of VP Development. Ortiz was one of the original employees at Illumination when it opened its doors in 2007, serving as Director of Development until 2011, when he left the company to pursue opportunities in the music industry. Even during his hiatus, Ortiz stayed close to the company by assisting in development across multiple properties. In his new role, Ortiz will be involved in the development of new feature film projects, and has already started in that mission with the recently announced animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which will be directed by Pete Candeland. Read More »

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‘Despicable Me 2′ Gets IMAX 3D Treatment As Part Of International Release

By | Thursday April 18, 2013 @ 6:19pm PDT

Universal and Illumination Entertainment‘s Despicable Me 2 begins its international release on June 20th in 2D and 3D theaters and in select IMAX theaters. Chris Meledandri’s sequel features a return of the Minions, plus a manic rabid chicken and new villain El Macho voiced by Al Pacino. Steve Carell returns as super-villain Gru. 2010′s Despicable Me grossed more than $543 million worldwide. Despicable Me 2 will be released domestically on July 3rd.

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Sandra Bullock To Voice Super-Villain In ‘Minions’ Spinoff For Illumination/Universal

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Playing against her America’s Sweetheart status, Sandra Bullock has been set to provide the lead villain voice in Minions, the Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment spinoff of the Despicable Me franchise. Bullock will voice Scarlet Overkill, a stylish bad-ass super-villain who is (what else?) bent on world domination. The 3D CG animated comedy has been set for release December 19, 2014.

The adorable yellow henchmen, who got their start in 2010′s Despicable Me, will be back this summer in the sequel. This spinoff establishes that Minions have existed since the beginning of time, in service of history’s most ambitiously evil villains. Through their lovable ineptitude, Minions have managed to thwart and ultimately destroy all of those bad guys. This story picks up in the 1960s, before they hench-ed for Gru. With no more super-villains  to serve, the Minions fall into a collective depression and three of them set out to seek a new evil master. They wind up at a villain convention, where they compete for the right to be henchmen for Scarlet Overkill, whose Audrey Hepburn-like high style appearance belies her world domination ambition and her aspirations to become the world’s first female super-villain. Read More »

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Illumination And Fuji TV Do Japanese Deal: ‘Despicable Me’ Minions For Fuji Logo

By | Wednesday September 5, 2012 @ 12:43am PDT

(SANTA MONICA, CA & TOKYO, JAPAN) September 5th, 2012 -Illumination Entertainment, creators of Universal Pictures’ Despicable Me and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, and Fuji  Television, Japan’s leading broadcast television network and film production company, today announced a strategic alliance in Japan. The deal brings together the creative expertise of Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination, and Fuji Television’s Senior Executive Managing Director, Chihiro Kameyama. no immediate co-production plans on the table. The partnership will kick off in September 2012, when audiences will see the iconic Minion characters from Illumination’s hit film Despicable Me appear on the Fuji Television logo accompanying their theatrical release of Bayside Shakedown.

Read More »

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“Despicable Me’ Minions Spinoff Dated 2014

By | Tuesday August 21, 2012 @ 8:35pm PDT

The Minions will next be seen in Despicable Me 2, which opens July 3, 2013. Today Universal Pictures scheduled Illumination Entertainment‘s Untitled Minions Project In 3D for Friday, December 19, 2014. The spinoff features the Minions characters from the 2010 hit Despicable Me and marks the 5th movie in Illumination’s partnership with Universal. With an all new storyline, Universal says the movie will take full advantage of the oddball Minions in settings with human characters. The 3D-CG comedy adventure will be produced by Illumination’s Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy and will be directed by Pierre Coffin who with Chris Renaud also helmed the original movie and its upcoming sequel. The Minions Project is to be co-directed by Kyle Balda. Brian Lynch has written the screenplay and Renaud will serve as executive producer.

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Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Names Natalie Fischer COO

By | Tuesday August 7, 2012 @ 10:49am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Illumination Entertainment CEO Chris Meledandri has named Natalie Fischer to be the company’s first Chief Operating Officer. The move was made as the company’s creative output continues to grow from one film every two years to one film per year. The move gives Meledandri the opportunity to focus on the creative and production side with Janet Healy, who’s based in Paris and who oversees production on all the films. Fischer had been Illumination’s Head Of Business Development after moving over in 2009 from Universal, where she had been senior vice president, Business Development and Strategy. She’d worked closely with Meledandri as the original business plan took shape before Illumination launched in 2007.

As COO, Fischer will be responsible for all key business operations of Illumination, while helping shape the overall strategic direction of a company which has grown to 35 full-time employees. She reports to Meledandri, overseeing finance, strategy, and administrative functions for the company and managing its relationship with Universal Pictures and Illumination Mac Guff, the 300-personal animation facility in Paris acquired to handle Illumination’s growing volume of family fare. Fischer, a Harvard MBA, previously held senior posts at UK’s Channel 4 and at Monitor Company.

Meledandri just set as Illumination’s fifth feature project an untitled film about The Minions, the adorable yellow creatures who served as Gru’s henchmen in Despicable Me. That film comes out in 2014, a year after the Despicable Me sequel … Read More »

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Illumination And Universal Hatch ‘Despicable Me’ Spinoff About The Minions

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After coming right out of the gate with the animated hit Despicable Me and turning it into a sequel and a just-opened 3D theme park ride at Universal Studios Orlando, Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment has set an untitled feature spinoff based on The Minions as its fifth feature film with Universal. The adorable yellow-colored critters that began as henchmen for Groo in Despicable Me are now leading men (?) for a film Universal will release in 2014.

Despicable Me SequelThe film is an original story that will introduce new characters and reprise others that originated in Despicable Me, but the focus is on the antics of the yellow fellows as they interact with human characters. The script is already written by Brian Lynch, and Pierre Coffin will direct and Kyle Balda will co-direct. Coffin co-directed Despicable Me and is helming the sequel with Chris Renaud, and the two of them also do the voices for The Minions. Balda co-directed Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax with Renaud for Illumination. Read More »

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Illumination And Universal Set Scribe Team For Woody Woodpecker Pic

By | Wednesday April 4, 2012 @ 12:01pm PDT
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures have set John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky to write the script Woody Woodpecker, the venerable and precociously noisy bird that first appeared in 1940 and will be resurrected in an animated feature.

Altschuler and Krinsky’s animated credits include the Mike Judge series creations Beavis And Butt-Head and King of The Hill, and they also scripted the Will Ferrell-Jon Heder figure skating comedy Blades of Glory. The film joins the roster of development projects for Illumination, which most recently released Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. The scribes are repped by WME and 3 Arts.


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