Bill Hirst knows that people can be confused by seeing young moviegoers walking around in costume to see Minions: Rise of Gru.
But the teenager behind ‘Gentleminions’, which has become the latest viral social media trend on TikTok, said the act was not intended to offend or confuse people. It was just a fun thing he and his friends decided to do that unexpectedly blew up.
“I think the trend would have happened with or without me, but I think our TikTok made it more viral than it would have been,” the 18-year-old Hearst said in an interview. “I think it was a really cool promotion for the minions.”
Once considered the scariest content on the internet, minions from the “Damned Me” franchise have been brought back by Gen Z after videos like Hearst’s went viral on TikTok. As of Wednesday afternoon, his TikTok, in which he attended the movie in costume with his friends, had accumulated more than 36.6 million views and more than 8.7 million likes.
Now, all over the world, people are noticing “Gentleminions” in cinemas. As in Hearst’s video, many of the “Gentleminions” TikTok videos show costumed groups flocking to the movies, with rapper Eat’s song “Rich Minion,” which appears on the film’s soundtrack, playing in the background . Some videos also show the groups posing with outstretched arms, a gesture made by Felonious Gru, the protagonist of the Cursed Me franchise (voiced by Steve Carell).
Even Universal Pictures took notice, tweeting on July 1: “to everyone who shows up on @Minions in costume: We see you and love you.” (Universal Pictures and NBC News are units of NBCUniversal). A spokesman declined to comment further on the trend.
Hearst, who was about 6 years old when Despicable Me came out in 2010, said he thinks the trend probably resonated with others because it tapped into the nostalgia Gen Z feels for the franchise. have grown up.
“I think one of the reasons” it’s done so well “is nostalgia,” he said. “I grew up watching all the ‘I Am Damned’ movies. I didn’t mind going and watching 1½ hours to make a TikTok. It’s a good movie and it brought back memories of watching the ‘Damned Me’ movies with my family.”
The story behind the video
Hearst got the idea to go to the theater in costume from TikTokers who offered to perform the stunt, but hadn’t posted videos of them actually doing it at the time.
He and a group of his friends decided to make the video after their official graduation year at their school in Sydney, Australia.
The group of 15 said they had their costumes on hand after attending the formal. The Minions movie had come out, so they thought it would be fun to go to theaters dressed up. In addition, they wanted to celebrate the nostalgia of the film franchise that they “rocked”.
On June 27, the group attended a screening of the film. The next day, Hearst posted a video. In it, they wear costumes, take an escalator to the theater, cheer while watching the movie, and rate the movie a “banana” out of 10.
“Three hours before the movie, we said, ‘Let’s do it,'” Hurst said. “We had to go through the bottom of that mall. … We kept our serious faces, we were very businesslike.”
He was among the first to post a video of him and his group of friends performing the “Gentleminions” trend. Sander Mendelsohn, Hearst’s manager, said the response had been “overwhelming” and “incredible”.
The “Gentleminions” hashtag now has 30.6 million views on TikTok, and the “Rich Minion” audio was featured in about 15,500 videos as of Wednesday.
The trend is causing a backlash from some theatres
Some who have taken part in the trend have reportedly been disruptive – a handful of UK theaters have even banned costumed guests from screenings. Some decided not to screen the film entirely after interruptions.
“The sheer numbers and the behavior are unmanageable,” Daniel Phillips-Smith, manager of the Mallard Cinema in Guernsey, told the BBC. He said the theater had to stop showing the film because of vandalism and “staggering misbehavior” by large groups. The theater did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Representatives for US-based theater chains – AMC, Regal and Cinemark – also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Another person online shared a screenshot of a video showing a movie theater floor littered with popcorn and trash after a screening of The Rise of Gru. The Twitter user wrote“that’s not very gentlemanly.”
In a TikTok video uploaded over the weekend, a user shared a video of a movie theater employee saying, “You will not scream, you will not clap at the beginning of this movie. If you do, you will exit without a refund. If you refuse to leave, we will call the cops to remove you. It is also against the law to record any part of the film, even the beginning.’
The staff member goes on to say, “There are people here, families, to watch the movie. And if you want to disrupt the movie, you can pay their ticket.”
Another video circulating online shows a Gentleminions mosh pit erupting outside a theater. One showed a group of “Gentleminions” kicked out of a theater for being too rowdy.
Hearst shunned those who went too far in the trend.
“There’s a way to have fun and be respectful,” he said. “Being polite throughout the movie is probably the best way to do it… Obviously turning the cinema into a mosh pit is not the right thing to do.”
Can a meme help a movie thrive in theaters?
The “Damned Me” franchise was widely popular long before the “Gentleminions” trend took off.
The latest installment is no different — “Rise of Gru” broke box office records for the biggest opening for a film on Independence Day, according to Variety, collecting $125.1 million in its opening weekend in North American theaters.
But some experts say the trend has certainly given the film more popularity, especially among younger audiences.
Julia Alexander, director of strategy at Parrot Analytics, an entertainment research company, said Universal Pictures’ support of the meme without trying to co-opt it has allowed it to flourish as a viable trend that helps sell tickets.
“Passive activity on the Internet is really hard to turn into a purposeful effort,” Alexander said. “But if the trend itself is based on an action that people will take, like buying a ticket, that will really help the studio’s bottom line.”
Some film studios have learned the language of certain platforms, such as TikTok, Alexander said. She pointed to Lionsgate’s TikTok account, which has built brand loyalty by creating content that feels natural to the platform, such as funny “Twilight” videos or actor Pedro Pascal’s “Thirst Trap” videos to promote his recent film “The Unbearable Weight of Massive” Talent.” On the other hand, Alexander said, some studios have missed the mark when it comes to capitalizing on viral trends, such as Sony Pictures with “Morbius.”
After the critically panned Morbius became a meme on social media, Sony Pictures re-released it in theaters only to bomb again. Some have suggested that the studio’s decision to re-release the film signifies a lack of understanding of meme culture.
The best-case scenario for a studio is to support an organic, harmless social media trend, rather than trying to generate a trend or forcefully trying to turn a trend into a financial boon, Alexander said.
Hearst said he plans to return for the next Minions movie in costume, regardless of whether it’s a box office hit.
“You’ll see us at the movies,” he said. “Perhaps in suits and perhaps in larger quantities than before.”