Yes, it's only Wednesday, but with tomorrow being Independence Day and a whole lot of people considering this a holiday weekend (not that we're jealous or anything!), all of the weekend's biggest releases are already open, and the box office reports are rolling in. The two biggest films, The Lone Ranger and Despicable Me 2, ought to have no trouble with competing with each other. One is a broad appeal, PG-13 action movie meant to grab in anyone older than 12, while the other is a bright and cheerful animated sequel meant to get everyone younger than 12 (and those who have to escort them). But as it turns out, by the end of the weekend, it might not look like such a fair contest.

Early numbers at THR say that Despicable Me 2 could double The Lone Ranger's take for the weekend, headed toward an estimated $120 million premiere compared to the Johnny Depp vehicle's $50-60 million. Early numbers from today say that Despicable will gross as much as $30 million on its opening day alone. Lone Ranger, on the other hand, is on track for an $11 million opening day. Both films were relatively expensive, but the numbers cited by THR are pretty staggering-- just $75 million for the animated Despicable, and a whopping $250 million to make The Lone Ranger. The production problems on that one were well documented, and the shoot was shut down in August of 2011 during pre-production specifically because the studio was worried about the film's mounting costs.

Director Gore Verbinski, stars Depp and Armie Hammer and producer Jerry Bruckheimer all took pay cuts to make the film possible, and some of the most elaborate action sequences were trimmed to save money. But the final product, as Sean said in his review, is still as bloated and unwieldy at times as the final Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and the film's imagination doesn't seem to make up for some surprising violence and general messiness. The Lone Ranger himself may be an iconic and famous character, but he was unlikely to stand a chance against an animated sequel to a recent success. And in a summer that's already been crammed with big action movies, how was one more going to manage to distinguish itself? Some of the action fatigue that seemed to take out White House Down may be at play here.

Johnny Depp has proven over and over again that, even when his movies don't do all that well at home, he's still massively popular overseas-- just look at the worldwide grosses for Dark Shadows and The Tourist next time you want your mind blown. So Disney and Depp will still be fine… even if Depp's reputation with American moviegoers continues to fall apart, bit by bit. Let us know in the comments what you're seeing this holiday weekend, and if The Lone Ranger deserves bigger audiences than it's getting.

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