Attacking theaters on the same May 18 date as the original ogre toon from six years ago, "Shrek the Third" stomps into the marketplace this weekend ready to seize the box office crown.
No other studio dared to challenge this mid-May event film which has much of the scene all to itself. Add in the third weekend of "Spider-Man 3" and multiplexes will surely be active with ticket sales ready to surge from last weekend’s levels.
Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and Antonio Banderas all return to lend their voices to "Third" and are joined by old and new faces like John Cleese, Julie Andrews, Eric Idle, Rupert Everett, and Justin Timberlake. In the new PG-rated film, the not-so-jolly green giant embarks on a quest to find himself a replacement to become the heir to the throne of Far Far Away and finds all sorts of comedic misadventures along the way.
The first two "Shrek" pics also opened on the weekend before the lucrative Memorial Day holiday frame and went on to show terrific legs. "Shrek 2" bowed on a Wednesday and grossed a whopping $108M over its three-day period on its way to becoming the number three domestic blockbuster of all-time with $436.7M. It was so well-loved and interest in a new chapter began almost immediately with moviegoers of all ages. With its blend of colorful and zany antics for kids plus sophisticated humor for adults, the franchise has been able to stomp on all its animated competitors to become king of the toons. In fact the next biggest openings in history for animated films are claimed by "The Incredibles," "Finding Nemo," and "Ice Age: The Meltdown" which all launched in the $68-71M range.
In the much-talked-about ‘Battle of the Threes’ this month, each tentpole is trying to outdo the previous one and is slipping itself into theaters a couple of hours earlier each time. "Spider-Man 3" launched like most blockbusters do with Thursday night midnight shows, but "Shrek the Third" is offering its night-before showtimess at 10pm while next week "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" will take it one step further on the plank by starting its first showings at 8pm on Thursday evening. Though uncommon, the practice has been seen before. Night-before showtimes for previous summer tentpoles included 10pm for 2003’s "The Matrix Reloaded," 10pm for 1997’s "The Lost World," and even 6pm for 1996’s "Independence Day" which practically gave it a whole new opening day.
With 4,122 theaters this weekend, "Shrek" should be able to dominate the marketplace with ease especially since the only real threat, "Spider-Man 3," is fading fast and summer movie fans are looking for something else to eat popcorn in front of. Competition should actually be less for "Third" than for its predecessor. The second chapter faced $53.8M from the rest of the top ten on its debut frame. This weekend, even with higher ticket prices, that figure will be hard to reach since most of the top ten will consist of feeble grosses. That gives "Third" a nice environment to enter, even if trailers and commercials are not as funny this time around.
Reviews have been weaker than last time and repeat business over the long-term should not be as strong for Paramount which hardly has its name anywhere on the new product. Its subsidiary DreamWorks still has its brand name everywhere on the film. Regardless, the marketing has been as powerful as ever with McDonalds coming on board as a promotional partner after years of being in bed with Disney exclusively. Comedies do so well at the box office and business should come from the family audience as well as from teens and young adults looking for fun weekend entertainment. Hoping to set a new benchmark for animated openings, "Shrek the Third" could haul in about $115M from Thursday night through Sunday.
Peter Parker busted onto the scene with a record-shattering opening weekend two weeks ago, but gravity has kicked in since. The second weekend drop of 62% showed that the film absorbed much of its potential upfront and that repeat business isn’t really a factor. This week, Monday sales were only $3.6M (down 65% from last Monday) while Tuesday stood at $3.5M (off 57%). With "Shrek" stepping in to steal away all the attention, "Spider-Man 3" is sure to suffer another large decline. Some multiplexes will open up those fifth and sixth Spidey screens and turn them into ogre auditoriums. Still, as the studio knew a year ago when tentpole release dates were set, a silver medal is guaranteed this weekend. "Spider-Man 3" may fall by more than 50% to about $27M and boost its 17-day cume to an impressive $280M.
Sophomores "28 Weeks Later" and "Georgia Rule" will get bumped down a notch this weekend. Like for all horror sequels, a second weekend drop of less than 50% would be shocking for the Fox zombie pic. A 55% tumble for "Weeks" would put it at $5M pushing the ten-day tally to a modest $18M. Universal’s multi-generational dramedy is playing to older women who do not exactly rush out on opening weekend so a smaller decline will result. "Georgia Rule" could dip by 40% to around $4M giving the Jane Fonda flop only $13M in ten days.
LAST YEAR: Sony shot to the top of the charts with the global launch of "The Da Vinci Code" which seized control of the number one spot with a massive $77.1M bow. The Tom Hanks smash went on to gross $217.5M domestically and a colossal $753M worldwide. Paramount debuted its DreamWorks toon "Over the Hedge" in the runnerup spot with $38.5M and went on to collect $155M from North America and $330M globally. Rounding out the top five were "Mission: Impossible III" with $11.3M, "Poseidon" with $9.2M, and "RV" with $5M. Lionsgate offered horror audiences "See No Evil" and was met with $4.6M on its way to a weak $15M total.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com