Weekend Box Office – $71.2 Million for SHREK FOREVER AFTER; Disaster for MACGRUBER

     May 23, 2010

Shrek Forever After movie poster 3D slice

In its debut weekend Shrek Forever After (or “Shrek the Final Chapter” depending on who you ask) pulled in an estimated $71.2 million. That is the best opening for an animated feature this year and the third best for 2010 overall. Unfortunately, when compared to the last two entries in the franchise, Shrek’s Final Chapter isn’t much of a read.

Title Weekend Total
1 Shrek 4 $71,250,000 $71.2
2 Iron Man 2 $26,600,000 $251.2
3 Robin Hood $18,700,000 $66.1
4 Letters to Juliet $9,100,000 $27.4
5 Just Wright $4,225,000 $14.6
6 MacGruber $4,100,000 $4.1
7 Date Night $2,825,000 $90.6
8 Nightmare on Elm Street $2,285,000 $59.9
9 How to Train Your Dragon $1,850,000 $210.9
10 Kites $1,035,000 $1

The release of Shrek Forever After was appropriately massive. The so-called “Final Chapter” to the highest grossing animated franchise of all-time launched on Friday in 4,359 locations including 2,373 3D engagements. That is a record for both an animated feature and for a debut in 3D. And it appears that these are the only records that Shrek 4 is destined to break. Sure, it also had the best debut for an animated feature so far this year, but there have only been two so the bar is set kind of low.

For any other animated movie an opening above $72 million would look pretty sweet. After all, Dreamworks Animation’s current hit How to Train Your Dragon debuted to only $43.7 million 8 weeks ago while their biggest non-Shrek movie, Kung Fu Panda, took in $60.2 million in 2008.  But the fact that I used the words “non-Shrek movie” should have been a hint that the franchise is held to a higher standard.

Shrek (the First) started small, debuting in 2001 to $42.3 million, not adjusted for inflation. In 2004 Shrek 2 became the highest grossing animated film of all-time with a final tally of $441 million domestic and three years later Shrek the Third had the highest animated debut of all-time with $121.6 million. These prior films also managed to rake in all that cash without the benefit of a 3D ticket-price premium. Beginning to see why $70 million falls short?

Speaking of falling short… what happened with MacGruber? I realize that most people laughed disdainfully when it was announced that the one-note SNL skit would be coming to the big screen. But then, with the news that the movie was going for that “hard” R-rating, the sentiment of scoff began to turn into a general chorus of “maybe it won’t totally suck.” With a current rating of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes that last part, at least, appears to be accurate.  But with a first weekend estimate of just $4.1 million from 2,551 theatres (that’s a per-screen average just over $1,600) there is still a lot of suck to spread around.

In holdover news, Iron Man 2 took another 49% hit in week three but with a domestic gross now north of $251 million it remains roughly equal to where Iron Man stood over the same time period. Robin Hood dropped 48% in its second weekend, leaving the $200 million movie with a gross estimate of $66 million. Summit’s Letters to Juliet fared much better in fourth place, falling only 32.8%. Finally, as expected, the amazing percentage holds of How to Train Your Dragon have come to an end. This weekend, its ninth, the hit fell off by 63% thanks almost entirely to the reassignment of its 3D sites to Shrek 4.

Next weekend will put the Prince of Persia up against some wannabe princesses. Two years after Sex and the City shocked a lot of us by opening to over $57 million, Sex 2 is set to shock us all over again… for a whole a different reason. Counterprogramming for the cosmo-consuming set will come in the form of Disney’s Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time – the latest attempt to wring a feature film out of a videogame plot. There’s a lot of snark to go around with both films so it should be fun to see how it all plays out.

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