Box Office Showdown: Shrek vs. Emmerich

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up

May 31, 2004

John hopes the weather is better for his wedding...

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The box office was set to be extremely busy this holiday weekend. 20th Century Fox rolled out The Day After Tomorrow against the sure-to-be-mammoth second weekend for Shrek 2, which last weekend had the second biggest opening ever at $108 million. Also charging into battle this weekend are MGM’s Soul Plane and Raising Helen, from Disney’s Touchstone Division.

Memorial Day Weekend used to launch the summer season at the box office, but times have changed and the summer now starts earlier. DreamWorks was one of the first distributors to take big advantage of the Memorial Day weekend – without releasing a film. In 2001, instead of opening a kid-flick gamble called Shrek over the long weekend, they chose to open the weekend before and rely on good word-of-mouth and the extra day in the weekend to propel the film into to the box office stratosphere. The first Shrek movie made $42.3 million over its opening weekend, and with the help of the holiday, made $42.5 million in its second Friday-to-Sunday, finishing second behind Pearl Harbor’s $59.1 million debut. Shrek had earned just short of $100 million after two weekends of release, doubling its production budget of $50 million. For the sequel, DreamWorks has used the same strategy, except this time the film has opened on 700 more screens than the predecessor, which allows more patrons to see the film as quickly as they want to. With a $108 million open, holding the debut gross was likely to be impossible over the three-day portion of the weekend. However, Shrek had zero top ten competition directly in its demographic, so a number like $108 million should have been attainable over the four-day holiday weekend.

The number one film over the Memorial Day long weekend is Shrek 2, though The Day After Tomorrow certainly gave the sequel a run for its money. Shrek 2 grossed an amazing $92.2 million over the four-day portion of the weekend, and an estimated $73.1 million over the three-day section. Compared to last weekend’s shocking opening, the computer animated sequel dropped 15% using the four-day number and 32% using the three-day number. As you read in our Friday Numbers Analysis, Shrek 2 was the number two film on Friday, but bounced back with what are two extremely kid-friendly days at the box office over the long weekend. Shrek 2 used them well, grossing $28.2 million on Saturday (38% increase from Friday) and $24.5 million on Sunday. The sequel set a record for second weekend business, beating out Spider-Man’s $71.4 million sophomore session. The DreamWorks uber-hit crossed the $200 million mark on Saturday, its 11th day of release, tying LOTR: Return of the King and The Matrix Reloaded for the second-fastest film to reach $200 million behind Spider-Man. Shrek 2 has quickly amassed a total of $256.9 million after only 13 days of release. The film should have no problem becoming the fastest to hit $300 million; it took Spider-Man 22 days to hit that number. Simply put, the Shrek 2 gross is box office history in the making, as it will easily become the biggest animated movie ever.

Where is Shrek 2 heading in terms of total box office? The answer could be quite startling. The original Shrek, albeit opening with much lower sales, pulled a total box office to opening weekend multiplier of 6.3; it opened with about $42 million and finished with $267.7 million. If we lower that number to four because of the difference in the opening weekends, we are still talking about a potential $432 million (or more) in domestic sales alone. Shrek 2 is a lifeboat for DreamWorks, as Shrek 2’s production budget was only $60 million. However, that number most likely does not include the $10 million salaries paid to stars Myers, Murphy and Diaz. For more information about the costs and revenues pulled in by movies, check out Walid Habboub’s excellent Movieball columns.

In a not very shabby second is The Day After Tomorrow, distributed by 20th Century Fox. The Roland Emmerich climate-change flick grossed $86 million over the four-day long weekend, and had a traditional three-day gross of $70 million. The gross for Day sets a record as the biggest second-place gross ever, and combined with Shrek 2 the films set a record for a gross by the top two spots at the box office. As Reagen Sulewski pointed out on Friday, the previous record holder was Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and the third weekend of Spider-Man, which combined for a puny $125 million. Shrek 2 and Day After Tomorrow grossed $143.1 million over the three-day weekend, and $179.2 million together over the four-day weekend.

The Day After Tomorrow was able to break through the clutter of Shrek 2 due to a money shot trailer and TV ad campaign, but was able to penetrate further due to news coverage about the film and its ‘topic-of-the-day’ type premise. In what may be a decent sign for the legs of the film, critics were at least mixed on the disaster flick instead of hating it outright. RottenTomatoes gathered 132 reviews, 60 were positive and 72 were negative with many of the critics that liked it calling it entertaining. On the other hand, Van Helsing, which has dropped hard since its opening weekend, was massacred by critics, and these notices chopped off its legs. I’m not saying The Day After Tomorrow won’t drop more than 50%+ next weekend; however, I am saying that after that, the film's legs may still be intact.

Third place this weekend is Troy from Warner Bros. The Greek epic was able to cross the $100 million mark on Saturday, and pull in a four-day long weekend gross of $15 million. It had a three-day take of $11.5 million, down a nasty 52% from last weekend. While a big hit on the international stage, WB can’t be happy that Troy had to work this hard to meet its production budget of $150 million. Its current total sits at $109.6 million, and it should be able to limp toward that $150 million number.

One of the smaller openers, Raising Helen, finishes in fourth this weekend. Disney tried the old Notting Hill scenario, placing a female-driven picture next to a film mostly aimed at males. The move worked to a point, but it’s hard when critics eviscerate your product. Raising Helen grossed $14 million over the long weekend and $11.2 million over the traditional three-day. With a 23% fresh rating at RT, Helen is going to have work hard over the next few weekends to recoup its $50 million production budget.

Fifth goes to Soul Plane, MGM’s shot at counter-programming over the long weekend. While its fifth place finish doesn’t look great, MGM released the film to only 1,566 venues, which is about 1,200 less than Raising Helen. Plane grossed $7 million over the four-day portion of the weekend, and $5.7 million over the three-day section. Over the long weekend, the film managed a decent venue average of $4,469. Also, the film cost the makers only $19 million to make, a figure it should reach quite easily over the next two weekends.

Those very successful Mean Girls, Tina Fey’s comedy about… well… Mean Girls, find themselves in sixth place. The Paramount release grossed $6.3 million over the four-day holiday, and $4.9 million over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend, down 30% from the last frame. The $17 million film now has $73.6 million in the war chest, with more to come from international sales and home video (and probably a sequel).

Seventh goes to the nose-diving Van Helsing, which was not able to stay ahead of Paramount’s Mean Girls. In its fourth weekend, Universal’s big budget monster movie grossed $6.2 million over the four-day weekend. While international sales will save Van Helsing for its studio, this is another example of a studio that can’t be happy that their blockbuster is struggling to recoup its production budget stateside. Van Helsing now sits with a domestic total of $110.2 million against a production budget somewhere in the $150-175 million range.

Man on Fire, Fox’s pre-summer Denzel Washington film, finishes in eighth place for the weekend. Man on Fire has held quite well in the face of the summer rampage; it dropped a small 27% last weekend versus Shrek 2, but was hit a little harder vs the more adult Day After Tomorrow. The film grossed $1.8 million over the three-day (down 50%) and $2.4 million over the four-day section of the weekend. It now has a total take of $73.3 million against a production budget of $70 million.

Sony and Revolution’s 13 Going on 30 was able to hold onto a top ten spot this weekend. The Jennifer Garner starrer grossed $1.4 million over the long weekend and now has a total of $54.5 million.

Tenth goes to the "other" documentary people are talking about, Super Size Me (the other of course being Fahrenheit 9/11). Out on only 197 screens, Super Size Me grossed $1.3 million over the Memorial Day long weekend, giving it a venue average of $6,634, the third best average in the top ten. IMDb lists the budget at $300,000 (it made $307,500 on Friday alone) and the film already has a limited release gross of $4.8 million.

Overall this weekend, box office was huge. The four-day total for the top ten estimates came in at $231.9 million, the best ever for a Memorial Day long weekend.

Top Ten for Memorial Day Weekend 2004
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Gross ($)
Gross ($)
1 Shrek 2 4,223 +60 $92.2 $256.9
2 The Day After Tomorrow 3,425 New $86.0 $86.0
3 Troy 3,411 No Change $15.0 $109.6
4 Raising Helen 2,717 New $14.0 $14.0
5 Soul Plane 1,566 New $7.0 $7.0
7 Mean Girls 2,618 -436 $6.3 $73.6
6 Van Helsing 2,891 -527 $6.2 $110.2
8 Man on Fire 1,426 -678 $2.4 $73.3
9 13 Going on 30 1,164 -864 $1.4 $54.5
10 Super Size Me 197 +49 $1.3 $4.8



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