"Despicable Me 2"
"Despicable Me 2"

Three reliables led a strong summer weekend box office: sequels, animation and ensemble comedies. "Despicable Me 2" came out on top in a close race, with Adam Sandler and company marking a strong second with "Grown Ups 2" (Sony). Warner Bros.' costly original "Pacific Rim" exceeded its estimates with a still soft $38.3 million and a long way to go to before delivering a profit. Twentieth Century Fox's "The Heat" continued to show strength, moving ahead of both Disney's "The Lone Ranger" and "Monsters University."

Business spread out over multiple films with a top 10 of $187 million, up $37 million over last year. This brings the year to date total to under 1% of 2012, the closest it has come to par since the strong post-Christmas weeks. But the large number of super-expensive summer films may sell tickets-- without returning enough to their investors. 

Among limited openings, Weinstein had its best of the year so far with all-too-timely Sundance winner "Fruitvale Station" in seven theaters for a super $377,000 and a per screen average over $53,000 (full details in Arthouse Audit later). 

1. "Despicable Me 2" (Universal) Week 2 - Last weekend #1

$44,754,000 (-46%) in 4,003 theaters (+6); PSA: $11,180,000; Cumulative: $229,237,000

Repeating at #1 after a strong challenge, and at $472 million in worldwide total, almost equal to Disney's "Monsters University" despite less time in release, Universal's third two-weekend #1 film of 2013 continues its strong performance. Its second weekend drop is about equal to the "Monsters University" drop in a competitive market. This will likely be the year's top animated grosser.

What comes next: This looks headed to $400 million domestic and more than double this worldwide. "Turbo" opening next weekend should cut into it.

2. Grown Ups 2 (Sony) NEW - Cinemascore: B; Criticwire: D-; Metacritic score: 20

$42,500,000 in 3,491 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $12,174,000; Cumulative: $42,500,000

While it didn't make #1, this strong opening for an Adam Sandler sequel comes in slightly ahead of 2010's initial film ($40 million), more than the total of Sandler's most recent film "That's My Boy," and nearly as much as James' last film "Here Comes the Boom." For Chris Rock, it is only second to the long-ago "The Longest Yard" as an opening weekend gross. Clearly, with a comedy these days, multiple star leads can trump bad reviews (see "The Heat").

Check out the stats on director Dennis Dugan, 66, whose career total for 17 features now approaches $1.2 billion -- a figure that is higher than the totals for better known directors such as Clint Eastwood, Ang Lee, Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher, and the Coen Brothers. Dugan has become one of the most reliable creators of wide audience comedy hits, despite being much older than his audience.

This success also comes at a welcome moment for the beleagured Sony studio, coming off two major disappointments,"After Earth" and "White House Down." "Grown Ups 2" boasts a production budget of $80 million, not inexpensive for a comedy (double that of "The Heat"), but still low enough to guarantee ultimate success.

What comes next: The first "Grown Ups" quadrupled its opening weekend to end up with $161 million domestic/$271 million worldwide. This might fall off more quickly at home, but ultimate totals will likely come in about the same or possibly a bit higher.

3. Pacific Rim (Warner Bros.) NEW - Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic score: 65

$38,300,000 in 3,275 theaters; PSA: $11,866; Cumulative: $38,300,000

Opening up ahead of estimates, the film still comes in below the needed numbers for this $190 million budget (financed primarily by Legendary Pictures with Warner Bros. as minority player). The total was aided by heavy 3-D attendance (at 50%, the summer season's highest) and heavy male interest. But Mexican helmer Guillermo del Toro's original Kaiju vs. Jaeger actioner--which was not pre-branded-- will require huge word of mouth and worldwide support to glean a profit.

The shortfall becomes more apparent with comparisons to similar films. "World War Z" a few weeks ago managed to do $66 million its opening weekend. But even two sequels by del Toro, both less expensive, opened in the same range: "Hellboy 2" grossed $34.5 million and "Blade II" $32.5 million on their opening weekends.

"Pacific Rim" seems to have been hit by action fatique after multiple big-budget enhanced special effects entries, and also suffered from the director rather than the cast being the draw. Del Toro has a deserved major fan base, but apparently not enough to initially overcome these other factors.

International took in $53 million over the weekend with many countries still to come, so this by no means is not the last word for the film. But it's going to need every break going forward to come close to what it needs to earn to break even.

What comes next: Apart from word of mouth, possible repeat viewings - the lack of which have hurt other summer non-animated, non-comedy films - might aid this going forward.