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Box office update: 'Despicable Me 2' dominates on Friday with $30.2 million

Those yellow minions are bringing in a whole lot of green at the box office. After an incredible $34.3 million start on Wednesday and a strong $24.5 million haul on Thursday, Despicable Me 2 maintained its lead on Friday, scoring an additional $30.2 million, which gives the $76 million film from Universal and Illumination Entertainment an $89 million total after three days and puts it on pace for a $140 million five-day start.

Meanwhile, Disney’s $225 million western The Lone Ranger earned a much more modest $10.7 million on Friday, which brought its total to a weak $30.2 million. The film, which stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, may have to settle for about $50 million in its first five days. Disney should be thankful that Warner Bros.’ Jack the Giant Slayer already debuted and bombed back in March — it certainly takes some of the heat off of The Lone Ranger.

Lone Ranger flashback: When radio ruled the West

Say what you will about Disney’s The Lone Ranger, Armie Hammer certainly looks the role of a heroic Western icon. In other words, he’s no Earle Graser. Graser was one of the early voices of the Lone Ranger when the character became a popular fixture in the 1930s. Now, I’m not saying that Graser had a face for radio… but his bosses decided to use another actor — the taller, more athletic Brace Beemer — for the Ranger’s public appearances. (We call this Reverse Klinton Spilsbury Syndrome.)

To his credit, Graser was committed to the role, wearing the mask even though it made him look like the saddest bank robber in Detroit, where he voiced the Ranger live for WXYZ for nearly eight years. According to editor Ben Cosgrove of, which recently unearthed this photo, Graser might have worn the mask to protect his own identity from the Ranger’s legion of fans. Uh-huh.

Tune in below to hear Graser in action: READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'Despicable Me 2' crushes 'Lone Ranger' on Wednesday

Those little yellow minions can’t be stopped! Despicable Me 2 easily won the box office race on Wednesday with $34.3 million ($4.7 million of which came from Tuesday night showings beginning at 7 p.m.), putting it on pace for a remarkable $140 million five-day debut. The $76 million film, produced by Illumination Entertainment and distributed by Universal, will easily notch one of the best opening weekends of 2013. And with an enthusiastic “A-” CinemaScore, the film is on track to quickly surpass The Croods and Monsters University to become the biggest animated hit of 2013.

Disney’s ultra-expensive western The Lone Ranger stumbled out of the gate on Wednesday, wrangling a terrible $9.7 million, which puts it on pace for a five-day debut in the $45-50 million range. The film, which stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, cost at least $225 million to produce and could cause a major financial blow to the studio since westerns rarely play well outside of the United States.

The weekend’s other new opener, comedy film Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, pulverized already heightened expectations with an impressive $4.8 million from only 876 theaters. The film, a follow-up to Hart’s $7.7 million-earner Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain, could earn about $18 million in its five-day start — a fantastic result for a film that cost just $2.5 million to produce.

Due to the July 4th holiday, there has been some delay in reporting studio grosses this morning, but check back to EW throughout the holiday weekend for more box office updates — including holdovers from last week — and have a happy Independence Day!

Box office preview: Minions will attract millions to 'Despicable Me 2' on July 4th weekend

Thanks to Man of Steel, Fast & Furious 6, Monsters University, and the surprising success of Now You See Me, the box office climbed to record levels in June, earning $1.25 billion — a 19 percent increase over June 2012. This week, Despicable Me 2 and The Lone Ranger, which both begin showing tonight to take advantage of the July 4th holiday weekend, will try to keep the box office firing on all cylinders. The former is poised to dominate the field, but the latter seems unlikely to lasso a big enough audience to justify its gargantuan budget. Here’s how I think the box office might shake out over the Wednesday-to-Sunday period:

1. Despicable Me 2 – $130 million
The original Despicable Me was a surprise success in 2010, opening with $56 million en route to a $251 million finish. Adults enjoyed the sly edge of the animated feature, and their kids fell in love with the yellow “minions,” which became breakout characters in the same vein as Madagascar‘s penguins or Ice Age‘s acorn-chasing squirrel, Scrat. For Despicable Me 2, Universal is plastering the minions on any free ad space they can. The studio has inked licensing deals with Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us, Progressive, Chiquita, Cheetos, McDonalds, and other national brands. Plus, they’ve got a “Despicablimp” flying around the country.

But those promotional efforts wouldn’t matter all that much if audiences didn’t genuinely love the original — and boy did they. In fact, Universal could have a Shrek 2 situation on their hands here — while the original movie became a word-of-mouth smash (Shrek earned $267 million), the sequel could be a slam dunk right out of the gate (Shrek 2 wound up earning $441.3 million.). Despicable Me 2 does face animated competition from Monsters University, which has topped the chart for two weekends, but Despicable Me 2 is fresher in kids’ minds, since its predecessor came out just three (not 12) years ago, and it’s safe to say there’s more built-in excitement for the young franchise. Opening in over 3,900 theaters, Despicable Me 2, which cost Universal and Illumination Entertainment only $76 million to produce, may earn about $130 million over the five-day period.

2. The Lone Ranger – $58 million
Disney spent at least $225 million on this Gore Verbinski-directed western, which stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer (though many commercials seem to ignore Hammer’s presence altogether), but with terrible reviews and a major lack of social media activity, The Lone Ranger looks likely to become an expensive misfire for the studio. Just to earn back its budget domestically, The Lone Ranger will have to earn $40 million more than the highest-grossing western of all time, Dances with Wolves, which took in $184 million in 1990. That seems very, very unlikely.

Audiences have just never flocked to desert-set movies the way they have superhero flicks or lush adventures like Depp and Verbinski’s Pirates franchise. Recently, western blockbuster Cowboys and Aliens underperformed with a $36.5 million opening and a $100.2 million total against a $163 million budget. That seems like a fair comparison for The Lone Ranger — though Depp’s appeal does boost prospects considerably (especially on the international front, where westerns often toil). Tracking suggests that The Lone Ranger could gallop away with about $70 million over five days, but in a marketplace stuffed with well-liked releases, that sounds quite high. Debuting in about 3,700 theaters, The Lone Ranger could wrangle about $58 million in its first five days. For a standard Hollywood release, that result would be just fine. For a $225 million tentpole with bad reviews and limited international appeal — that could spell trouble.

3. Monsters University – $34 million
The film may fall by about 50 percent due to direct competition from Despicable Me 2, but that still puts it on track for a $23 million three-day weekend — and about $34 million adding in Wednesday and Thursday grosses as well. All told, Monsters University should have nearly $220 million domestically by the time Sunday night rolls around.

4. The Heat – $32 million
Without any new comedies arriving on the scene, The Heat should continue to play well with adult women in its sophomore frame. The R-rated laugher scored $39.1 million in its debut frame, and it could take in another $32 million over the Wednesday-to-Sunday period, which would give the $43 million Fox film about $82 million after two weekends on the chart.

5. World War Z – $24 million
Brad Pitt’s zombie thriller has been holding up very well on weekdays, but the simple fact that the box office is about to get even more crowded may keep it from notching an exemplary hold. Still, it could score another $24 million in five days, yielding a $156 million gross.

Also keep an eye on Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, which is opening in about 800 theaters on Wednesday. The comedy film, shot during one of Hart’s stand-up shows at Madison Square Garden, follows in the footsteps of comedy film Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain, which broke out with a $7.7 million total in 2011. Since then, Hart has hosted the MTV Movie Awards, starred in BET’s Real Husbands of Hollywood, helped lead Think Like A Man to a $90 million finish, and grown his fanbase substantially. Thus, over the five-day frame, Let Me Explain may take in a very impressive $11 million — not bad considering the film cost only $2.5 million to produce.

Check back to EW on Thursday and Saturday for holiday weekend box office updates, and then again on Sunday for the regular box office report.

Who was that masked man? The Legend of Klinton Spilsbury.

Resurrecting the Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp must’ve sounded like one of the all-time Hollywood no-brainers when it was pitched to Disney in 2011. After all, the mysterious masked man used to be the all-American icon with the greatest chase-music (“The William Tell Overture”), the greatest sidekick (Tonto), and the greatest catchphrase (“Hi-yo, Silver, away!”). Plus, though Depp is playing a boldly reimagined Tonto opposite Armie Hammer’s Ranger, he was reuniting with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, the creative triumvirate that made Disney billions with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But getting The Lone Ranger into theaters has been a bumpy ride, with an enormous budget that nearly nixed the project before it even hit the trail, subsequent reports of cost-cutting rewrites, and a dangerous horseback accident that nearly mangled Depp himself.

Still, Disney’s saddle pains are nothing compared to the last time Hollywood tried to get the Lone Ranger back on the horse. Older generations will fondly recall actor Clayton Moore dishing out virtuous frontier justice on television in the 1950s, but few remember The Legend of the Lone Ranger, an expensive 1981 misfire that nearly buried the Ranger for good. It was a disaster from beginning to end — the movie’s abrasive producer was so determined to reinvent the franchise that he alienated its core fan base before the first scene was even filmed, the action sequences were so dangerous that a stunt man was nearly killed, and the filmmakers cast a complete unknown whose lack of experience and ultimate inability to sound like the Lone Ranger gave new, ironic meaning to the Hollywood casting concept of “the strong silent type.”

Producers Jack Wrather, Walter Coblenz, and Martin Starger recruited an all-star unit to bring the Lone Ranger back to life more than 30 years ago, including their director, Oscar-nominated cinematographer William Fraker (Rosemary’s Baby), who told his crew he wanted his epic to evoke the look of Lawrence of Arabia. Jason Robards signed up to play President Ulysses Grant, and Christopher Lloyd was the dastardly Butch Cavendish, the disgraced Civil War officer who kidnaps Grant. John Barry (Born Free) composed the rambling score, and a posse of great horsemen provided the old-school Western stunts. All that was left was the selection of their leading man. After witnessing how a little-known actor named Christopher Reeve made Superman fly at the box-office, the producers copied that blue-print and tapped a 30-year-old no-name actor to save the president, kiss the girl (the late Juanin Clay), and ride off on a white horse before the townspeople could thank him. Who was their masked man? His name was Klinton Spilsbury. READ FULL STORY

On the scene at 'The Lone Ranger' premiere; Plus, if the film were a Disney theme park ride

Disneyland has proven that it knows how to put on a party full of spectacle with its premieres for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. On Saturday night its neighbor theme park, Disney California Adventure, hosted its first movie premiere when The Lone Ranger debuted in the Anaheim park’s Hyperion Theater.

The House of Mouse pulled out all the stops for the big event, which featured a 1,500-foot-long red carpet stretching from the entrance of the park to the theater. Costumed characters like Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto were also present, as was the horse who plays Silver in the film. Ahead of the celebrity arrivals, jugglers on stilts entertained the crowd, and park employees passed out black masks like the Lone Ranger’s to fans and press.

The Lone Ranger brings to the big screen beloved characters from the 1949-1957 Lone Ranger TV series, which in turn was adapted from a 1933 radio show. Armie Hammer plays the title character, and Johnny Depp took on the role of his Native American companion Tonto. Pirates of the Caribbean masterminds Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer helmed the project as director and producer, respectively.

'Lone Ranger' trailer: Beware the man on the pale horse -- VIDEO

“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” — Revelation 6:8

It you betrayed John Reid, the 19th-century Texas lawman left for dead by scar-faced bandits, you might be whispering passages from the Bible when a certain masked man remakes your acquaintance. The new trailer for Disney’s Lone Ranger almost seems to be evoking scripture, with the hero seeking vengeance as much as justice.

Fortunately, there’s a healthy dose of the yee-ha ridiculous to keep things playful, and the latest trailer seems to continue the search for that perfect Pirates of the Caribbean sweet spot between mysterious fun and glorious trainwreck. Masked vigilantes jump their horses off of rooftops and then ride them through the center aisle of a passenger train, winking ladies have double-barrel shooters hidden in their heals, and Johnny Depp’s Tonto has more than a little Capt. Jack Sparrow mixed in with his solemn Native American spirit.

The movie, due July 3, certainly delivers its own fireworks. Watch the trailer below: READ FULL STORY

'The Lone Ranger': Final theatrical trailer -- VIDEO

“All I know is that a man killed my brother,” says the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) in the new “final” theatrical trailer for Gore Verbinski’s summer blockbuster, which seems out to prove that sometimes you don’t need anything more than some trains and horses to make a thrilling adventure movie.

Up until this point, the trailers for The Lone Ranger seem to have assumed that everyone would know the basic story of the 1950s television series, or at least want to know why a dirt-covered Armie Hammer would be waking up on top of some very unstable looking scaffolding. Disney’s taken a different approach for the final theatrical trailer, teasing a little bit of back story before getting to Johnny Depp’s Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s disenchantment with the law, and all those epic train sequences.


'The Lone Ranger': 'Metaphorical universe' or just 'Wild Wild West' without Will Smith?

Tom Wilkinson grew up in England but, of course, like any child of the 1950s, he could see the Old West just fine thanks to the powerful and focused lens of Hollywood. The two-time Oscar nominee plays a rapacious railroad baron named Latham Cole (that’s him in the new poster above) in Disney’s The Lone Ranger, the most expensive western in history and a bold bid to revive that once-dominant screen genre. READ FULL STORY

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