The second of May's blockbuster trilogies launches this weekend, setting the stage for a record breaking month.
Weekend Forecast for May 18-21, 2007
By Reagen Sulewski
May 18, 2007
Shrek the Third marks the (wait for it...) third outing of DreamWorks' most successful animated franchise, set in the fairy-tale and fable-inspired land of Far Far Away and involving the big green ogre named Shrek. In this movie, Shrek and Fiona are settling in as caretaker rulers of the Kingdom of Far Far Away, but when King Harold is about to, well, croak, the search for a more permanent ruler starts in earnest. Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) makes another play for the Kingdom, but the rightful heir is one Prince Arthur (Justin Timberlake), who is not eager to take on the job. The battle, filled with numerous random pop culture references, is on.
Shrek has been the most successful competitor to Pixar's CGI animation domination, and the only one of DreamWorks' efforts to really break through. The first Shrek premiered in this weekend slot in 2001, opening to a modest $42 million but showing extended legs, eventually outgrossing Pixar's effort for that year, Monsters, Inc. Shrek 2 was a massive step up in terms of box office, opening to over $100 million and eventually moving into third place in the all-time box office standings.
There's no reason to suspect any problems for this edition, at least at the outset – while I thought both films so far have been equally mediocre, they were very well received by the public at large, and it faces a very forgiving child-focused audience. All of the main voices are back, including the oh-so-hip-for-2001 trio of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy, along with Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots. The whole idea seems a little bit less fresh this time, and reviewers are generally down on the film, but this is unlikely to matter much this weekend. Much like the Spider-Man 3 audience of two weeks ago, this is about as pre-sold as audiences get on a project. The following weekends are going to be interesting, but for this frame, look for a massive $114 million at 4,122 venues.
Ceding top spot to Shrek the Third will be Spider-Man 3, the opening weekend box office champ and the proud (?) owner of another record from last weekend; the largest week-to-week dollar drop in history. Although it avoided the $100 million drop, word-of-mouth creamed the film, and it shed almost $93 million from its total, even as it cruised past the $250 million total mark. That represented a percentage drop of over 60%, putting a severe damper on its future. A similar drop to about $23 million seems inevitable this weekend, and it could be all but done in two weekends. This is a flameout for the history books.
Very few other films are hitting of late, with last weekend's 28 Weeks Later, Georgia Rule, Delta Farce and The Ex all coming in under $10 million, and The Ex debuting all the way down in 12th place. The failure of 28 Weeks Later to surpass 28 Days Later is a bit of a surprise, given the large increase in screen count over its predecessor, but none of the other films' failure is a huge surprise. In the case of Delta Farce, it's even welcomed, as Larry the Cable Guy quickly joins Pauly Shore and Carrot Top in the "Stick to standup, or better yet..." Hall of Fame.
Of these, 28 Weeks Later could manage to earn as much as $6 million, but as a horror sequel, it's likely to settle in below that. Georgia Rule theoretically has the best chance at legs as a chick-flick, were it not for the fact that no one seems to like it. Pencil it in for $3 million. Delta Farce and The Ex are done like dinner, with few mourning their loss.
The rest of the top ten is as weak as it has been since April, with few new releases daring to challenge the heavy hitters. There's one more weekend of this before a more robust set of films starts premiering and filling out the top ten. Until then, it's some pretty top-heavy slates.