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Minions shows how 'merch' makes money for movies

The Minions

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A movie's success is not solely determined by box office numbers or praise from the critics. Even if there's no Academy Award, a motion picture with memorable characters will win over the hearts—and wallets—of people everywhere.

Take the "Despicable Me" franchise. While Gru's misadventures are the center of the movies, his Minions also capture people's imagination.

"Despicable Me 2" made $970 million worldwide—almost double the original's gross return ($543 million)—and the release of "Minions" has the potential to further the brand image.

To see what other films have performed well both inside and outside of theaters thanks to their unforgettable characters, click ahead.

—By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs

Disclosure: Universal and Illumination Entertainment are owned by NBCUniversal, a unit of Comcast, which also owns CNBC.

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