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Posted at 12:18 PM ET, 07/11/2010

BOX OFFICE: 'Despicable Me' wins weekend with 'surprisingly' strong debut

By Michael Cavna

About halfway into viewing the new "Despicable Me" -- and it's at the midpoint that the film really begins to gain entertainment traction as it grows a heart -- I realized to whose lineage the animated hit properly belongs.

Some observers have invoked Looney Tunes as influence, but its parentage is much truer to two: Its biological poppa is "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" (only with a winning trio of Cindy Lou Hoo's) and its adoptive daddy is Charles Addams. And it's the Seussian story of a villain's redemption-through-dadhood (as voiced by star Steve Carell) that is ringing true with many small fry and their weaned-on-Grinch parents.

Which is why "Despicable Me's" popularity might be a surprise to those haven't seen it -- or haven't seen it surrounded by the playground set and their summer-weary parents. But if you have, you likely could have predicted this: "Despicable Me" has just won the domestic box office in its debut, rolling to a $60-million weekend and rolling over such powerhouses as "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" and "Toy Story 3" as well as the new sequel-to-Schwarzenegger "Predators." It's the Power of the Parental Dollar.

And between "Despicable Me" ($60.1-million, to be exact) and "Toy Story 3" (a $22-million weekend as it approaches $350-million total domestically) coming on the heels of the fourth "Shrek," 3D animation is having an especially strong summer.

"Eclipse" was second for the weekend grossing $33.4-million and "Predators" was third at $25.3-million, according to early studio estimates as reported by Variety; final figures are due Monday. "The Last Airbender," another film buoyed by kid and parent fans of the animated Nickelodeon series, was fifth at $17.2-million.

By Michael Cavna  | July 11, 2010; 12:18 PM ET
Categories:  The Animation, The Holly Word  | Tags:  Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After, The Last Airbender, Toy Story 3  
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