Weekend Wrap-Up for May 21-23, 2010

No Good News for Box Office, Shrek, MacGruber

By John Hamann

May 23, 2010

Shrek has been unpleasantly surprised!

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Do you hear the collective "uh-oh" coming out of Hollywood? You should. Shrek Forever After failed to come close to expectations, while the once promising (but always imbecilic) MacGruber fell on its head (at least the character couldn't get dumber). To add to that, we have weak numbers again from Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood, as only Letters to Juliet showed a decent hold. With the Memorial Day frame only one weekend away, those Sex and the City girls better get busy.

The number one film of the weekend is Shrek Forever After, but that's pretty much where the good news ends. This latest incarnation of the big green ogre grossed a much lower than expected $71.3 million from 4,359 venues – 2,373 of those 3D equipped. It had a venue average of $16,345. This opening is off tracking estimates by as much as $30 million, and is even off Paramount's lowball tracking projection of $80 million. Shrek 4 isn't going to be a flop by any means; it cost $130 million to make, so it will likely earn back its production budget and P&A costs before it leaves domestic cinemas. It will then find its profit overseas. Considering this was the widest 3D release ever (with some theatres in New York charging $20 for admission), Shrek Forever After is by far the biggest disappointment released this year, and will definitely end the franchise for DreamWorks and Paramount.


Why is Shrek 4 the biggest disappointment of the year? It is the biggest animated franchise in the history of movies, with the first three films earning $1.23 billion from domestic ticket sales alone (it has earned a similar amount overseas). To recap, the first Shrek basically came out of nowhere. It opened to $42.3 million back in May 2001. It had $267.7 million domestic finish, which at the time made it one of the top 15 domestic earners ever. It earned a half-billion worldwide against only a $50 million budget. It had a scintillating 6.33 open-to-total multiplier (it earned over six times its opening weekend figure) and it was 90% fresh at RottenTomatoes. If that's not a franchise launch, I don't know what is. Shrek 2 opened three years later over the same weekend (all Shreks have opened the weekend before Memorial Day, for a one-two box office punch). Before Shrek 2 opened, I didn't think another one could equal the first, but it blew the original away with a $108 million opening, and it was just getting started. It earned an amazing $441.2 million in domestic sales, and $919 million worldwide, all against a $70 million budget – a number it earned over its first Friday and Saturday. On top of the great box office numbers, Shrek 2 was as good or better than the original, coming in at 88% fresh at RottenTomatoes.

Shrek the Third came three years later (again), and the numbers showed definite symptoms of sequelitis. Shrek 3 opened to $121.6 million (currently the biggest animated opening ever, but won't be in a few weeks - coughToyStory3cough), but the good news ended there, as all the other numbers were down. Shrek the Third earned $322.7 million domestically, and $799 million worldwide, this time against an ever higher $160 million budget. Maybe the worst news was that this Shrek came in at 41% fresh, and while the numbers indicated sequelitis, the reviews indicated the dreaded "franchise fatigue."

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