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‘Despicable Me’ tramples ‘Lone Ranger’ at theaters

  • FILE - This undated file photo provided by Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc. shows Johnny Depp, left, as Tonto, and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger, in a scene from the film "The Lone Ranger." Domestic box office numbers so far on this long Fourth of July holiday weekend are suggesting the highly anticipated, $250 million Western extravaganza is in serious danger of becoming the train wreck of the summer movie season. The animated minions of family favorite “Despicable Me 2,” with a price tag one third of what “The Lone Ranger” cost to make, is outperforming the masked man by more than three to one.  (AP Photo/Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc., Peter Mountain, File)

    FILE - This undated file photo provided by Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc. shows Johnny Depp, left, as Tonto, and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger, in a scene from the film "The Lone Ranger." Domestic box office numbers so far on this long Fourth of July holiday weekend are suggesting the highly anticipated, $250 million Western extravaganza is in serious danger of becoming the train wreck of the summer movie season. The animated minions of family favorite “Despicable Me 2,” with a price tag one third of what “The Lone Ranger” cost to make, is outperforming the masked man by more than three to one. (AP Photo/Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc., Peter Mountain, File)

  • FILE - This undated file photo provided by Disney shows Johnny Depp as Tonto in a scene from "The Lone Ranger." Domestic box office numbers so far on this long Fourth of July holiday weekend are suggesting the highly anticipated, $250 million Western extravaganza is in serious danger of becoming the train wreck of the summer movie season. The animated minions of family favorite “Despicable Me 2,” with a price tag one third of what “The Lone Ranger” cost to make, is outperforming the masked man by more than three to one. (AP Photo/Disney Enterprises, Inc.)

    FILE - This undated file photo provided by Disney shows Johnny Depp as Tonto in a scene from "The Lone Ranger." Domestic box office numbers so far on this long Fourth of July holiday weekend are suggesting the highly anticipated, $250 million Western extravaganza is in serious danger of becoming the train wreck of the summer movie season. The animated minions of family favorite “Despicable Me 2,” with a price tag one third of what “The Lone Ranger” cost to make, is outperforming the masked man by more than three to one. (AP Photo/Disney Enterprises, Inc.)

  • FILE - This file photo provided by Universal Pictures shows the minion characters in the film "Despicable Me 2."  Domestic box office numbers so far on this long Fourth of July holiday weekend are suggesting the the animated minions of family favorite, with a price tag one third of what “The Lone Ranger” cost to make, is outperforming the masked man by more than three to one. (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, File)

    FILE - This file photo provided by Universal Pictures shows the minion characters in the film "Despicable Me 2." Domestic box office numbers so far on this long Fourth of July holiday weekend are suggesting the the animated minions of family favorite, with a price tag one third of what “The Lone Ranger” cost to make, is outperforming the masked man by more than three to one. (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, File)

  • FILE - This undated file photo provided by Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc. shows Johnny Depp, left, as Tonto, and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger, in a scene from the film "The Lone Ranger." Domestic box office numbers so far on this long Fourth of July holiday weekend are suggesting the highly anticipated, $250 million Western extravaganza is in serious danger of becoming the train wreck of the summer movie season. The animated minions of family favorite “Despicable Me 2,” with a price tag one third of what “The Lone Ranger” cost to make, is outperforming the masked man by more than three to one.  (AP Photo/Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc., Peter Mountain, File)
  • FILE - This undated file photo provided by Disney shows Johnny Depp as Tonto in a scene from "The Lone Ranger." Domestic box office numbers so far on this long Fourth of July holiday weekend are suggesting the highly anticipated, $250 million Western extravaganza is in serious danger of becoming the train wreck of the summer movie season. The animated minions of family favorite “Despicable Me 2,” with a price tag one third of what “The Lone Ranger” cost to make, is outperforming the masked man by more than three to one. (AP Photo/Disney Enterprises, Inc.)
  • FILE - This file photo provided by Universal Pictures shows the minion characters in the film "Despicable Me 2."  Domestic box office numbers so far on this long Fourth of July holiday weekend are suggesting the the animated minions of family favorite, with a price tag one third of what “The Lone Ranger” cost to make, is outperforming the masked man by more than three to one. (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, File)

The minions have overtaken The Lone Ranger.

Despicable Me 2 is trampling the Johnny Depp Western at the holiday box office, according to studio estimates released yesterday. The animated Universal sequel has collected three times more than the Disney cowboy caper since both films debuted Wednesday (plus limited Tuesday-night showings).

Despicable Me 2 has earned $59.5 million in ticket sales to $19.5 million for The Lone Ranger. On Independence Day, the margin tightened somewhat, but the animated film still dominated with $24.5 million, compared with the Ranger’s $9.86 million.

“This was a family weekend,” said Gene Del Vecchio, author of Creating Blockbusters and a marketing professor at the University of Southern California. “Kids vote with their requests, parents vote with their dollars, and when those things were combined, they voted for Despicable Me 2.”

The budget for the Universal film was a fraction of that of the Disney Western, which saw production stall because of soaring costs that ended up in the $250 million range.

“This just shows it’s not about the amount of money you spend. It’s about the quality of the script and the production itself,” Del Vecchio said.

Poor reviews for The Lone Ranger may have contributed to sluggish ticket sales. Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper called it “slick trash,” while the Associated Press’s Jake Coyle said the two-and-a-half hour spectacle “finally, exhaustingly collapses in a scrap heap of train wreckage.”

“The Lone Ranger is, alas, a runaway train,” Coyle wrote.

It’s a serious misstep for blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski and megastar Depp, who partnered profitably on the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films. Depp’s take on Tonto has been compared unfavorably to Captain Jack Sparrow in face paint.

“(The studio thought) if we have Johnny Depp and we transfer him over to another funny hat and call him Tonto, we’re going to be okay,” Del Vecchio said, “but it’s not okay.”

Part of the problem, he said, is that children aren’t nearly as familiar with the Lone Ranger as they are with the animated characters in Despicable Me 2 and last week’s first-place film, Monsters University.

“Kids really need to be reintroduced to the Lone Ranger,” he said. “Instead, they were introduced to Tonto in the marketing.”

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