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Will July 4th Save the Summer Box Office?

Can July 4th movies save the summer box office?

“Despicable Me 3,” opening Friday, is expected to build upon the success of its series predecessors and may bring in up to $100 million this weekend for NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC News.

Despicable Me 3 minions
Minions are off to another adventure in "Despicable Me 3." Universal Pictures

Also opening Friday is Poehler and Ferrel-helmed comedy “The House,” who turn their friend’s house into a casino in order to raise $500,000 to raise money for their daughter’s college fund.

And “Baby Driver,” which opened Wednesday, featuring a young getaway driver with a passion for music, earned $5.7 million in its first night, and is expected to bring in $20 million this weekend.

But with a large amount of sequels and a lack of any big release set for August, this summer in particular is looking slow for movie-goers with the U.S. summer box office already down 7 percent from last year.

So while Americans are hoping for beautiful weather this holiday weekend ahead of the fourth of July on Tuesday, many Hollywood executives may be looking for rain in hopes that bad weather drives people to theaters for a much needed revenue bump.

This year has been a tough one for the movie industry. Sequels such as “Transformers: The Last Knight” and “Cars 3” have not driven the kind of sales that their series predecessors have; “Transformers” made $69 million dollars in its five-day opening frame versus around $100 million for each of its prequels and the animated talking car flick sputtered, with the worst opening in series history and one of the lowest debut totals for the Pixar brand.

That makes what happens this weekend even more important, as industry executives and their “minions” look to “Despicable Me 3” to reverse that trend. The series has already made $2.69 billion, including $20 million from in its initial foreign launch.

In addition, since “Baby Driver” didn’t cost as much to make as some of its peers, it could be a bright spot in a struggling summer, even if it brings in less revenue.

But according to senior box office analyst Jeff Bock, the movie industry is changing in a way that might make what happens this weekend of lesser concern.

“There’s a huge paradigm shift in what people want to see,” he said. “And that’s no longer in movie theaters.”

He pointed out that two of the most anticipated entertainment programs in the past two years have been HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” neither of which was released in movie theaters. That could spell trouble for the movie industry, as people are getting more of their entertainment without leaving their homes.

Growing international and particularly Chinese audiences can sometimes make up for slow domestic demand.

While they fell flat with American moviegoers, “The Fate of the Furious,” the latest in the “Fast and the Furious” series, made over 80 percent of its $1.24 billion internationally, while “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” earned 76 percent of its 681 million abroad.

Meanwhile, superheroes are saving the day for Hollywood. “Wonder Woman” brought in over $103 million its opening weekend and “Spider Man: Homecoming” has received generally positive reviews.

Plus, original movies like “Dunkirk” and “Valerian” might help turn around the summer, but those will not get released until later in July.

This weekend will not make or break the summer movie business, but studio executives hoping for fireworks are more likely to find them in the skies than their balance sheets.