From TikTok Memes to Profit Margins: Minions Rise Of Gru Breaks Multiple Box Office Records
Minions: The Rise of Gru premiered in theaters on July 1st and smashed a handful of box office records. As of July 4, Minions grossed $123.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $93.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $216.9 million, making it the tenth-highest-grossing film of 2022.
The long-awaited prequel-sequel to the Illumination animated film series was the number one movie at the domestic and international box office this weekend, crushing big studio releases such as Jurassic World Dominion and Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. This also gave Minions the record for biggest opening over the July 4th holiday weekend, overtaking “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” which made $115 million in 2011.
Minions: The Rise of Gru now holds the eighth-highest opening weekend for an animated film domestically of all time, knocking down the equally meme-y Shrek 2.
The reason Minions has done so well in its first week is a mixture of good reviews (it holds a 71% critic score and 92% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes), being the next installment in a franchise that’s made roughly $4 billion worldwide, strategic brand partnerships marketed throughout the month of June — but most notably, a handful of TikTok trends amongst Gen Z that has once again proved how viral trends translate to box office success.
Perhaps the most influential of these trends was #GentleMinions, a slang term that refers to the young men and high schoolers that came to watch the 2022 movie Minions: The Rise of Gru in theaters wearing suits, ties and smoking cigars to show ironic adoration for the film. The term was coined by the official TikTok account of the Minions in early July 2022. In late June 2022, YouTubers and TikTokers started joking about arriving at the theaters on July 1st, 2022, to see Minions wearing fancy attire like suits, dress shirts, ties and blazers, all in reference to the Tickets To X, Please trend.
TikTok videos documented their arrival, as well as the riots, mosh pits, and disruptive cheering that occasionally resulted in police shutting down the theaters and showings. Additionally, a sign that stated it wouldn’t let Gentleminions into the theater went viral after being posted to Twitter. Major creators/influencers have also hopped in on the trend, like Mr. Beast renting out an entire theater for a private showing.
The volume and spread of the Gentleminions trend is closely tied to Gen Z’s growing up with the Despicable Me franchise but also serves as a perfect case study for the unique way that TikTok trends impact profit margins. 34% of the movie’s audience in the US over the weekend was between 13 years old and 17 years old, according to the audience insights company PostTrak. Overall, 90% of the audience was under 25.
Know Your Meme Insights has been closely monitoring Minions trends over the last month to demonstrate how memes translate to dollars. For a quick crash course, check out our TikTok explainer on Gentleminions.
TikTok discussion of the movie first heat up when Yeet’s song was leaked on Lyrical Lemonade via YouTube on June 27th. The song made it’s way over to TikTok when the official @minions account posted a video that Twitter user @tclarkmedia points out has perfect virality potential: the sound itself is a pattern interrupt, it’s catchy and repetitive.
Between June 27th and July 5th, Minions surpassed 8.2B views on TikTok that rapidly spread to Twitter as viral videos of Gentleminion groups circulated. Universal Pictures, which distributed the film, also endorsed the trend on July 1, tweeting, “to everyone showing up to @Minions in suits: we see you and we love you.”
Other micro trends included memes that exploited the target audience VS actual audience attending the movie. Image macros from cornerstone millennial fandoms like Mad Men and American Psycho began circulating with captions about going to see the movie in theaters.
Catchphrases that exploited the word “minion” also blanketed Twitter in viral memes like worshipped u like a minion but the distance between us gru…, she really gru on me she one inna minion, and buying her tickets to see the Rise of Gru because she is one in a minion from popular meme accounts like Twitter user @Omeo. The viral sensation surrounding the word “minion” also worked its way into macro trends like DALL-E mini image macros.
While the TikTok buzz clearly worked as a sort of free advertising for The Rise of Gru, some box office analysts have gone so far as to suggest that the movie’s success at the box office is at least partially attributable to the viral memes. For brands, Minions The Rise of Gru closely follows box office smashes like Top Gun that prove TikTok’s reach and buying power has a direct impact on tickets sold.