"Despicable Me" leads North American box office

Sun Jul 11, 2010 3:11pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Despicable Me," a new 3D cartoon featuring the voice of Steve Carell as a bumbling supervillain, stole the top spot at the weekend box office in North America on Sunday, signaling the entry of a pair of new rivals for Pixar and DreamWorks Animation.

The film earned an estimated $60.1 million across the United States and Canada during the three days beginning Friday, said Universal Pictures. Pre-opening forecasts were in the $30 million-$35 million range.

The General Electric Co unit financed and distributed the low-cost $69 million project, which marks the debut release from former 20th Century Fox animation chief Chris Meledandri's new company, Illumination Entertainment.

As with cartoon powerhouses Pixar and DreamWorks Animation's respective "Toy Story" and "Shrek" movies, a string of lucrative sequels is inevitable.

"This is going to be an absolutely great franchise for Universal and Illumination," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of distribution.

The film also earned $5 million after opening in five international markets. Russia led the way with a first-place $3.4 million start.

Carell, star of "The Office," supplies the voice of Gru, whose dastardly scheme to steal the moon is thwarted by three orphaned girls who see him as a father figure. Critics approved of the picture, noting its obvious debt to the Pixar oeuvre.


Coincidentally, Pixar's "Toy Story 3" became the biggest film both of the year and in the history of the Walt Disney Co unit.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Steve Carell waves as he walks on stage for an "Inside The Office" panel discussion at the Leonard H. Goldenson theatre in North Hollywood, California March 18, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>