Shrek Shows His Power at the Box Office Again
By John Hamann
May 20, 2007
After Spider-Man 3 opened to $151 million only two weekends ago, some thought that Shrek the Third might be a shrinking daisy in comparison. It wasn't to be. After a huge $39 million Friday, Shrek plundered through the rest of the weekend and finished with an awesome weekend total. Spider-Man 3 on the other hand, continued its steep fall from glory, losing another 51% of the previous weekend's audience, and proving again that the opening weekend is where blockbusters need to shine.
The number one film of the weekend is Shrek the Third, a film that most box office analysts - and even the head of DreamWorks - thought would open somewhere between $100 and $115 million. The news was eveh better than that for the denizens of from Far Far Away, as Shrek the Third blitzed expectations, coming in with a three-day estimate of $122.0. Out to 4,122 very busy venues, Shrek the Third had an opening weekend venue average of $29,597 - comparing respectably with Spider-Man 3's opening weekend average of $35,540 from 4,252 venues. This is a repeat of Shrek 2's surprising success in May of 2004. Shrek 2 opened on a Wednesday, and grossed $129 million over its first five days. Over the Friday-to-Sunday period of its opening frame, Shrek 2 earned $108 million. At the time it was the second biggest opening weekend ever (it's been bumped to fifth over the last three years). This opening slots Shrek the Third into third place on the list of biggest opening weekends of all-time, behind only Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($135.6 million opening). It will most likely fall to fourth once Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End opens next weekend.
On Friday, Shrek the Third opened to $39 million, a number usually reserved for comic book movies, Matrixes or Harry Potter films. Shrek 2's first Friday came in significantly lower at $28 million, but Shrek 2 had been in theaters for two days at that point. This time out, Shrek earned $900,000 from Thursday night previews before going on to dominate on Friday. It had an internal multiplier of 3.13, well back of the original's Friday-to-Sunday multiplier of 3.8. Films that earn as much as Shrek the Third did on Friday struggle to keep momentum up, and even a kids' movie like Shrek can have its multiplier beaten down.
Reviews may have also hurt Shrek's weekend legs. At RottenTomatoes, only 51 out of a possible 116 critics gave this one a positive review, leaving the third film in this venerable franchise with a rotten rating of 44%. Compared to the first two films, the third Shrek received an extremely poor score. The first Shrek received an 89% fresh rating, and Shrek 2 earned a fresh rating of 88%. Critics are obviously tiring of the big green ogre, but audiences are ignoring movie critics, at least over opening weekend (I'm looking at you, Spider-Man 3). Its always hard to forecast where films will end up after only one weekend, but if Shrek the Third does three times the $122 million opening, it will finish as another massive entry for the summer of 2007. It is the second $300+ million film in only three weekends, with a likely third only a weekend away.
While the news is currently great for Shrek the Third, if it pulls a Spider-Man 3 it won't make the top ten films of all-time list. Spider-Man 3 had another tough weekend, but despite the competition from Shrek the Third, the Marvel/Sony release was able to improve on last weekend's 61.5% drop. Some of that might have been due to its increase in venues. With 4,324 locations, Spider-Man 3 set yet another record for most venues ever. In its third frame, Spider-Man 3 earned $28.5 million, but still had a large drop, falling 51% compared to last weekend's gross of $58.2 million. Currently, Spider-Man 3 sits with an impressive total of $281.9 million, but won't reach the heights of its predecessors. The original Spider-Man didn't see a 40% plus drop until after its first month of release, and it finished with over $400 million; Spider-Man 2 didn't see a 50% plus drop until it was earning less than $1 million per weekend, and it finished with $373 million. This time out, Sony and Marvel (and their $260 million investment) most likely won't see $350 million domestically, and will have tosettle with about $325 million. I doubt Shrek the Third will see a different trajectory, and should finish in the same ballpark as Spider-Man 3.