'Despicable Me' tramples `Lone Ranger' at theaters

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"The Lone Ranger" seems to be riding straight into the sunset.The Disney Western starring Armie Hammer as the titular character and Johnny Depp as Tonto was outpaced 3 to 1 by Universal's "Despicable Me 2," which also opened Wednesday. The animated sequel collected $59.9 million so far, while "The Lone Ranger" earned a paltry $19.5 million.

While Disney is likely to recover, based on its other strong summer offerings, the masked man's dismal box-office showing may spell trouble for Depp and all but ends any hope for a Lone Ranger franchise.

"This is one and done," said Stuart Oldham, editor of the industry trade site Variety.com. "You're not going to see another Lone Ranger movie after this."

It's a "big disappointment" for Disney, said entertainment analyst Martin Pyykkonen of Wedge Partners. Although the film had been set up for a sequel, "it's obviously not even going to come close to covering the production costs."

"Lone Ranger" filming was shut down for weeks in 2011 because of soaring costs that still ended up in the $250 million range.

It's a serious misstep for blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski and megastar Depp, who partnered profitably on the first three "Pirates of the Caribbean" films. Depp's take on Tonto has been compared unfavorably to Captain Jack Sparrow.

"(The studio thought) if we have Johnny Depp and we transfer him over to another funny hat and call him Tonto, we're going to be OK, but it's not OK," said Gene Del Vecchio, author of "Creating Blockbusters."