Can Hollywood Make Old Franchises New Again?

despicable me 4
Like Inside Out, Despicable Me 4 has been a colossal hit partially because of nostalgia for the original. Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Scott Mendelson
July 9, 2024

Perhaps the most revealing statistic from Despicable Me 4’s strong holiday weekend domestic debut ($75 million Fri-Sun and $122 million Wed-Sun) is how much the movie lured younger demographics: A whopping 74 percent of the audience was under age 35. Yes, obviously, this is a kids’ movie, but the heightened percentage suggests that young adults were also reconnecting with Gru, the minions, the Pharrell soundtrack, and characters of their own youths. This continues a pattern for most of the year’s big box office successes: Out of generational nostalgia, young audiences are flocking to franchises that were birthed during the 2010s. 

During the past year, the most successful films have included new installments of Kung Fu Panda and The Hunger Games. Inside Out 2 has been an outsized hit ($1.21 billion and counting) partially because of nostalgia for the original, from 2015, which became a generational Pixar touchstone—just like Finding Nemo and Toy Story before it. Likewise, Despicable Me was an entirely new animated comedy in the summer of 2010, pitched at young kids even as it told a tale of midlife crisis. Minions, its summer 2015 spinoff, grossed $1.1 billion amid an all-quadrant franchise revival, and now Despicable Me 4 is marching toward at least $700 million worldwide, and probably much more, on a $100 million budget.