The Rise of Gru’ Sparks Meme Frenzy in Young Men

Minions: The Rise of Gru has a surprising demo to thank for setting off 4th of July box office fireworks with one of the best animated tentpole openings in history: Male Teens and Male Young Adults.

The #GentleMinions TikTok meme gained momentum throughout the long holiday weekend as Gen Z men showed up in theaters in dressy suits and scarves — supervillain Gru’s go-to uniform — to watch the last entry in Despicable Me franchise. Some of the videos posted on social media even show the crowd bowing to the Minion standees located in the lobby.

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“That’s what happens when a generation grows up with a franchise,” says an insider familiar with the film. Universal National Distribution Chairman Jim Orr added, “The film is being released to a very wide audience, as well as families and very young people.”

According to PostTrak, 34% of the opening weekend audience was between the ages of 13 and 17, an unusually large showing among teenagers for an animated film. This compares to 8% for the last title in the series, Despicable Me 3which debuted in 2017.

Further proof of the #GentleMinions craze, the latest film was nearly equal in terms of gender, with 51% female and 49% male. In comparison, Despicable Me 3 biased more women (55 percent).

So far, nearly 90% of Illumination and Universal’s audience The Rise of Gru is 25 and under, with 25% of participants under the age of 12.

The film is making pandemic-era history with a domestic debut of $125 million or more for the Friday-Monday long holiday weekend, including about $107 million for all three days. It’s, by far, the biggest showing for a family title since COVID-19 hit and it’s one of the top 10 openings of all time for a Hollywood animated film.

“Audiences were more than eager to come out and see this movie,” Orr said. “It’s so gratifying to see this kind of box office.”

The Minions The official TikTok account – which has endorsed the #GentleMinions movement – says it all when it comes to the meme explosion in recent days. The account has attracted 3 million subscribers since its launch 10 months ago, including 1 million since last week.

Universal Marketers intended to make the brand cool and relevant and give franchise ownership to those who grew up with it. It seemed to have worked, judging by the hordes of young men who naturally started dressing up as Gru and showing up at their local cinemas.

An Odeon theater in the UK went so far as to display a sign warning it would refuse entry to anyone taking part in the meme and wearing the signature costume after other patrons complained of loud behavior – including unconfirmed reports of #GentleMinions throwing bananas at the screen and lighting up cigars. Neither Universal nor Illumination seem particularly concerned.

“[Universal] was able to infiltrate this group,” says a marketing source for the film which stars Steve Carell, Taraji P. Henson and Pierre Coffin, among others. “The brand was cool enough to catch their attention and become a meme.”

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