The small yellow minions of "Despicable Me 2" upstaged Johnny Depp at the weekend movie box office.
The animated "Despicable" sequel hauled in an impressive $82.5 million in the United States and Canada from Friday through Sunday, more than double the weak $29.4 million for Walt Disney Co's big-budget Western "The Lone Ranger," which stars Depp as the masked man's Native American partner Tonto.
The two films began their box office battle on Tuesday night to grab moviegoers ahead of Thursday's U.S. Independence Day holiday. From their debuts through Sunday, "Despicable 2" earned $142.1 million, while "Lone Ranger" grossed just $48.9 million, below pre-opening forecasts for at least $60 million.
Families lifted "Despicable Me 2," which finished far above industry projections and achieved the biggest-ever five-day opening for an animated film. The movie is a sequel to the 2010 blockbuster featuring Steve Carell as the voice of the lovable villain Gru.
In the new film, Gru is a single father to three adopted daughters and becomes a spy for an anti-villain league. His devoted group of workers, the goggle-and-overall-wearing minions, get more screen time for their slapstick antics and song-and-dance numbers.
Another sequel, "Minions," is scheduled for Christmas 2014.
"The Lone Ranger" cost Disney $225 million to produce plus at least $100 million for marketing. The poor opening raises the possibility that the movie could saddle the media giant with a loss on the film, which is an action remake of a 1930s radio show and a 1950s TV series set in the Old West.
Armie Hammer plays John Reid, the lawman who becomes the masked Lone Ranger to fight injustice with his partner Tonto.
"Obviously this is disappointing," said Dave Hollis, vice president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios. "It obviously didn't connect with audiences, and it's frustrating for us. We felt we had everything in place for it to succeed."
"The Lone Ranger" added $24.3 million from international theaters during the weekend, bringing its global take to $73.2 million through Sunday, Disney said.
Hollis said it was still "a little too early to tell just yet" whether the film might eventually be profitable with the bulk of its international openings still to come.
A Disney hit, animated prequel "Monsters University" from the company's Pixar studio, finished the weekend in fourth place, grabbing $19.6 million for the weekend. Its global total topped $400 million through Sunday.
The female buddy comedy "The Heat," starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, took the No. 3 slot pulling in $25 million, while the Brad Pitt zombie thriller "World War Z" earned $18.2 million to finish in fifth place.