Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me 3 rose above the fray this weekend with a record-smashing $61 million* debut, and in just three days outgrossed the combined box office of Hollywood’s entire 2017 animation slate in China.
Gru and his minions — or the amazingly stealthy stay-at-home dad and his big-eyed cute little yellow people, as they’re known in Mandarin — charmed Chinese moviegoers to several box office records this weekend, including the highest-grossing opening day (RMB 132 million/$19.4 million) and the biggest opening weekend ever (RMB 414 million/$60.9 million) for an animated film.
Even though the original Despicable Me was unable to secure a Chinese release date back in 2010, Illumination’s franchise — including its sequel released in early 2014 (RMB 324 million/$53.3 million) and the Minions spinoff the following year (RMB 436 million/$68.6 million) — has found a solid foothold in the world’s second largest film market largely thanks to the marketability of its adorable minions.
For Despicable Me 3, several high-profile marketing partnerships with Uniqlo, McDonald’s and a cross-branding with bike-sharing behemoth Ofo that blanketed Chinese cities with googly-eyed bright yellow bikes, meant Chinese families — starved for kid-friendly fare since the last Hollywood animation Smurfs: Lost Village released more than 2 months ago — were more than primed to snap up movie tickets this weekend in record numbers.
Despicable Me 3 will also have the privilege as the last Hollywood film released before China’s month or more-long unofficial blackout period kicks off next weekend, and it may be able to use that advantage to become just the third animated film to join the RMB 1 billion (~$150 million) following Zootopia and Kung Fu Panda 3.
Hollywood had been on a bit of a cold streak with animated films in 2017. The highest-grossing animation prior to Despicable Me 3‘s record haul this weekend was fellow Illumination release Sing which managed RMB 201 million ($29.5 million) during its run back in February.
*All listed grosses in this article are adjusted to remove online ticketing fees. For a primer on why CFI reports this way, see here.