With both of the big new Memorial Day weekend openers debuting to disappointing results, the 3D animated sequel Shrek Forever After remained at number one for a second straight weekend thanks to only a moderate decline. After claiming the top spot on Thursday and Friday, the much-hyped comedy sequel Sex and the City 2 settled for second place for the weekend while the big-budget adventure pic Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time finished third. If estimates hold, the Friday-to-Sunday period will slump to the worst showing for Memorial Day weekend in nine years despite theaters charging record-high prices for tickets. Audiences sent a strong message to Hollywood studios – if you keep releasing subpar films and charge us more and more for them, we’ll get our entertainment elsewhere.
The DreamWorks Animation toon Shrek Forever After held onto the box office crown by grossing an estimated $43.3M this weekend over three days dropping a respectable 39% from its opening. After ten days, Paramount has taken in $133.1M – boosted in part by 3D surcharges – and could be headed for a final tally of $230-240M. That would make it the lowest-grossing installment of the ogre series despite the extra high 3D and IMAX ticket prices. 2001’s Shrek grossed $267.7M, 2004’s Shrek 2 took in a mammoth $436.7M, and the 2007 pic Shrek the Third banked $322.7M. All four films were released on the weekend before the Memorial Day holiday session. Third fell by a larger 56% to $53M over the Friday-to-Sunday span in its second frame so Forever is holding up better.
Expected to be the queens of the holiday box office, the ladies of Sex and the City 2 instead managed just a second place debut taking in an estimated $32.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday span. Warner Bros. opened the R-rated sequel in 3,445 theaters and averaged $9,325 per site which nearly matched the $9,926 average of Shrek which is playing in 922 more locations. Bad word-of-mouth quickly affected the Sarah Jessica Parker franchise flick. Opening day on Thursday fetched $14.2M and sales have fallen every day since. Saturday suffered a disturbing 23% fall from the previous day which was truly disastrous since Friday was not helped by the opening day rush and Saturday was a day off for the audience of adult women.
Since its Thursday bow, SATC2 has grossed $46.3M and its five-day launch from Thursday to Monday should reach roughly $52M. That means the sequel will gross less in its five-day holiday opening than its 2008 predecessor made in its three-day non-holiday bow. The first Sex debuted to $56.8M on the weekend after Memorial Day and was generally liked by fans who were expected to show up in larger numbers for the new installment. Reviews were horrendous, but franchise films like these usually can still score big bucks from loyal fans. With the road ahead expected to include large declines, City 2 is not likely to come close to the $152.6M of the first film.
The overseas launch was good but not amazing. SATC2 took in $27.6M from 17 markets including the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Brazil. The first Sex opened better with $37.2M from 13 markets, although the dollar was weaker back then.
Opening in third with disappointing results was the expensive action adventure Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time which collected an estimated $30.2M in its first weekend of play. Based on the popular video game, the PG-13 pic averaged $8,275 per theater from 3,646 locations and represented one of superproducer Jerry Bruckheimer’s worst openings for an action film in recent years. Marketing the historical adventure tale as being from the producer of Pirates of the Caribbean didn’t seem to fool too many moviegoers into buying a ticket. Reviews were mixed.
Persia never really sparked much interest among audiences despite a prolonged marketing push aimed at launching a new franchise. With reports putting the production cost in the range of $150M to $200M, a lot was at stake to get this film to sell tickets. Jake Gyllenhaal anchored the pic playing a rogue prince out to prevent a magical dagger from falling into the wrong hands. It wasn’t his first time starring in an effects-driven action tentpole launching over the Memorial Day session. In 2004, he co-starred in The Day After Tomorrow which exceeded expectations with a $85.8M four-day debut on its way to a massive $629M score worldwide. Persia opened overseas a week earlier and has seen decent but not spectacular numbers with $59M overseas this weekend from 45 markets for a $87.5M international total and $117.7M global cume.
Iron Man 2, the summer’s biggest hit and the year’s largest 2D grosser, followed in fourth place with an estimated $16M in its fourth weekend. Paramount’s super hero release dropped 39% boosting the 24-day total to $274.6M putting the comic sequel at number 45 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just behind the $277.3M of last summer’s The Hangover. Iron Man 2 still looks to be on a trajectory to finish close to or just a bit behind the $318.4M of its 2008 predecessor.
Universal’s pricey Robin Hood saw more audience erosion falling 45% to an estimated $10.3M which put the Crowe-Scott collaboration at $83M after 17 days of release in North America. Moviegoers overseas have given the historical epic similar treatment. The international markets brought in an estimated $17.6M from 56 territories, down 41% from last weekend, for a $154.6M total and $237.6M global tally. Worldwide ticket sales should finish in the $300-350M range. After exhibitors take their share, it won’t be enough to cover the massive production and marketing costs. If that wasn’t bad enough, the film won’t even come close to the $165.5M of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves from the summer of 1991 when the average ticket price was just above $4.
The teen drama Letters to Juliet is holding up well with female audiences grossing an estimated $5.9M this weekend, off just 35%. Summit has collected $36.6M to date. Fox Searchlight’s comedy Just Wright followed with an estimated $2.2M, down 49%, for a $18.2M cume. The hit comedy Date Night spent yet another weekend in the top ten with an estimated $1.8M in its eighth lap, down 40%, bringing Fox’s total to date to $93.4M.
After bombing on opening weekend, MacGruber tumbled by 64% in the second frame to an estimated $1.5M for a dismal ten-day score of only $7.1M. Look for a final gross of around $9M making it one of the worst performances in history for a film playing in more than 2,500 theaters joining recent favorites like Lucky You, Hoot, and The Rocker. Paramount’s third film in the top ten finished in the ten spot. The 3D toon How to Train Your Dragon dropped 46% to an estimated $1M raising the sum to $212.6M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $144.3M which was down 14% from last year’s Memorial Day holiday which fell a week earlier on the calendar when Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian opened in the top spot with $54.2M in three days; and down 13% from 2008’s holiday when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull debuted at number one with $100.1M.