Weekend Wrap-Up for May 28-30, 2010

Sex and the City, Persia Continue Quiet Summer at the Box Office

By John Hamann

May 30, 2010

We hear the Hulk is their real father.

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Now into our fourth weekend of summer box office, things are certainly not shaping up as planned. Starting with the okay but definitely not breakout success of Iron Man 2, and followed by domestic losers like Robin Hood, MacGruber, and to a lesser extent Shrek Forever After, May hasn't exactly seen boffo box office. That brings us to Memorial Day Weekend, the frame that has produced $100 million plus openers like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Things were looking up for this holiday frame: Sex and the City 2 was hoping for a breakout weekend, while Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was looking to start a franchise. In the end, though, it's just another weekend while we wait for Toy Story 3 and Splice.

Finishing first this weekend is not Sex and the City 2 or Price of Persia (uh-oh). Instead, it's Shrek Forever After, last weekend’s $70 million opener, the first film ever to achieve a gross that high,and still be considered a disappointment. Shrek 4 finished its second weekend with a three-day gross of $43.3 million, off 39% from its opening weekend.

Shrek films have always opened the weekend prior to Memorial Day, ever since the first Shrek came along in 2001. DreamWorks (and then Paramount) would go for the big opening and then use the holiday weekend to keep box office momentum going. The first film was basically flat from one weekend to the next, with both weekends coming in at about $43 million. Shrek 2 opened to $108 million, and fell only 33% to $72 million over Memorial Day in 2004. Shrek the Third started to show the chinks in Shrek’s armour, as the third entry opened bigger at $121.6 million, but fell faster losing 56% of its opening audience over the long weekend. With the lower opening this time out, the drop was not as bad, but still reinforces the trend that the Shrek franchise is on (going, going, gone). Give Shrek a running total of $133 million after two weekends of release.


Our number two film of the weekend is Sex and the City 2, and considering the marketing push behind this one, one might think Carrie Bradshaw and her friends were the second coming of Christ. Sex and the City 2 opened on Thursday for Warner Bros., and through Sunday has grossed an okay $46.3 million. Its Friday-to-Sunday total was $32.1 million. With a budget approaching $100 million (about 40% higher than the first film), Carrie and the girls needed to seriously outdo the opening of the original, and like we have seen over the first month of summer so far, this sequel failed to live up to those expectations. Like Shrek Forever After, Warner Bros. will have to have a serious look at greenlighting future Sex and the City films as dwindling returns over opening weekends could make another of these a curious investment.

The original Sex popped in May 2008, earning a surprisingly large $57 million against the second weekend of a swooning Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The original worked as a traditional three-day weekend, and opened on Friday with a ludicrous $26.8 million – an amount equal to what Avatar earned on its first day this last December. Its fortunes dwindled over the remaining portion of its opening frame, dropping 35% on Saturday to $17.6 million, and dropped further on Sunday to a figure less than half of its Friday, coming in at $12.5 million. The sequel opened on Thursday (an odd move considering what the original did on Friday), and grossed $14.2 million from 2,125 venues. This was not good news, as it threw under the original's Friday by $12.5 million, and the original's Saturday by $3.4 million. This is the opposite of how a sequel should perform. Usually the sequel hammers the original over opening weekend, but in the end, doesn't have the legs like the first one did. If there was good news, it is that Warner Bros. was employing a five-day strategy for Sex and the City 2, so all was not lost and they still had Friday night grosses to look forward to.

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