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Thinking outside the box office: Animated critters continue to swarm theaters

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Thinking outside the box office: Animated critters continue to swarm theaters

It takes new cartoon animals to beat old cartoon animals.

At least that seems to be the case going into the fourth weekendof "Finding Dory," the home-run WaltDisney Co./Pixar sequel to the aquatic-themed animation "FindingNemo."

For the first time since the sequel's debut, forecasters predictthat the little fish named Dory will swim in the wake of another new release, UniversalPictures' animated musing on what pets do when their masters are away.

"The Secret Life of Pets"
Source: Universal Pictures

"The Secret Life of Pets" is expected to open to asolid $79.0 million, according to,well out-swimming Dory's $23 million for the July 8 weekend. "Finding Dory"still might get the upper hand in the end, however. Forecasters expect the filmto count almost $424.8 million in total domestic box office revenue as the weekendcomes to a close, surpassing the $339.7 million "Finding Nemo" in total — and Dory stillhas some time left in her box office run.

But the sequel will begin to recede in stature, shifting attentionto newer titles.

DeadlineHollywood projects "The Secret Life of Pets" will open in a rangeof $70 million to $80 million, touching's estimate at the high end,but Deadline notes that conventional tracking puts the film even higher, with perhapsas much as $90 million. If it outperforms, "The Secret Life of Pets" couldbeat the $90 million record set by 2015's "Inside Out," which was thetop opening weekend of an original animated title, Varietynotes, but its forecasters are expecting a more conservative debut, offering a $70million estimate.

Auspices are favorable for "The Secret Life of Pets."It is already the second-highest grossing animated film of the year in the U.K.after collecting $31 million in six international markets, and the movie shouldbe able to harness some of the momentum that has led other animated stories like"Finding Dory," "Zootopia" and "The Jungle Book" togreat heights in the 2016 box office.

More distant history is on the film's side as well. A group ofother animated Universal Pictures titles compiled by SNL Kagan show strong performance,with an average profit margin of 58.3%. Most recently, "Minions" openedwith $115.7 million and grossed $1.51 billion before leaving theaters, dwarfingits $75.0 million production cost and managing a 65.9% profit margin. "Minions"was a spinoff of "Despicable Me," a franchise that also delivered forUniversal Pictures. "Despicable Me 2" collected $1.41 billion and bothit and the original film delivered profit margins above 50%. 

The reviews certainly are not hurting "The Secret Life ofPets." Rotten Tomatoes averaged an 80% "fresh"rating for the feature, as of about 4 p.m. ET on July 7, well outstripping "Minions."

For more adult audiences, Zac Efron and Adam Devine will deliversome bro-fueled humor with the debut of "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates."The R-rated comedy is not expected to come close to the wide appeal of "TheSecret Life of Pets." is forecasting a $10.5 million openingweekend. Both Variety and Deadline aremore bullish, pegging the film at about $15 million for its debut.

21st Century FoxInc.'s studio is hoping "Mike and Dave" can join the longtradition of successful wedding-related comedies like "Bridesmaids" and"Wedding Crashers," which left theaters with profit margins of 52.8% and41.2%, respectively. It also overlaps the bro-comedy genre of films like "Neighbors,"which catapulted to a 40.3% margin after a $49.0 million debut. But other similarfilms did not fare as well, with "That Awkward Moment" and "The WeddingRinger" falling flat on double-digit loss margins.

Working against "Mike and Dave," it is expected todeliver at the low end of opening grosses compared to similar titles, but its $33million production budget is muchhigher than the average $24.4 million budget of those films. "Bridesmaids"was produced for a similar cost, but it collected $26.2 million at opening, forexample.

"Bridesmaids"and "WeddingCrashers" also managed strong "Certified Fresh" ratings on RottenTomatoes, but "Mike and Dave" was running at a "rotten"52% rating as of 4 p.m. ET on July 7.

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