Weekend Box Office (May 18 - 20, 2001)

*** NEW Summer Box Office Preview ***

THIS WEEKEND DreamWorks collected the green with its animated comedy Shrek which opened atop the North American box office chart grossing a massive $42.35M over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final figures, marking the second-biggest debut in history for an animated film and the largest opening ever for the studio. The story of an ogre's journey to rescue a princess in order to save his swamp played in a colossal 3,587 theaters and averaged a muscular $11,807 per location.

Shrek features the voices of Mike Myers as the ogre, Eddie Murphy as his wise-cracking donkey pal, Cameron Diaz as the princess, and John Lithgow as the diminutive but evil Lord Farquaad. The PG-rated film pokes fun at traditional fairy tales offering a comedy and a love story with a message. Shrek also grossed $50,000 on Wednesday and Thursday in exclusive runs in New York and Los Angeles bringing its total to $42.4M.

The mammoth haul over the weekend easily surpassed the $34.8M debut of last year's eventual Oscar winner Gladiator as DreamWorks' top opening. Shrek ranks second among animated premieres behind 1999's Toy Story 2 which launched with a Friday-to-Sunday score of $57.4M over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Pushed to third by Shrek is Disney's 1994 trendsetting blockbuster The Lion King which arrived with $40.9M from 2,552 theaters with a stronger $16,022 average.

DreamWorks and directors Andrew Adamson and Victoria Jenson delivered a film which both critics and moviegoers loved. Reviews have been very positive and exit polling from CinemaScore resulted in an overall A grade with kids giving it an A+. According to Jim Tharp, president of distribution for DreamWorks, the turnout this weekend was split evenly between families and non-family audiences. Gender and age groups were also even showing that Shrek is attracting all segments of the marketplace. "Exhibitors were very excited to get this film and we believe it can play through the summer," noted Tharp.

Also contributing to the success of the $48M picture was the massive theater count. Shrek's launch in 3,587 theaters made it the second-widest bow in movie history after last May's Mission: Impossible 2 (a much-hyped sequel opening over a holiday weekend) which exploded in 3,653 locations. With spring movies fading fast and the majority of summer films not available yet, DreamWorks was able to book numerous auditoriums in each multiplex and aggressively launched with about 6,000 prints this weekend according to Tharp. "It was a great time to come into the marketplace," he added noting that Memorial Day weekend will allow a powerful second session.

Plus, with this summer's major family films like Disney's Atlantis and Doctor Dolittle 2 still weeks away, Shrek has ample room to gobble up ticket dollars. Next weekend's launch of Pearl Harbor may dislodge Shrek from the number one spot, but the animated comedy still hopes that good word-of-mouth will allow it to play powerfully and cash in on repeat business further establishing DreamWorks as a major force in feature animation.

After topping the box office for two weeks, Universal's early summer juggernaut The Mummy Returns settled for a second place finish but displayed a better hold than last weekend. Dropping 39% (compared to its 51% fall on the previous weekend), the Brendan Fraser adventure film grossed $20.4M in its third journey and boosted its 17-day total to a massive $146.5M. That puts The Mummy Returns 46% ahead of its predecessor, 1999's The Mummy, which took in $100.2M in its first 17 days after opening on the same May weekend.

Slipping a notch to third place was Sony's jousting film A Knight's Tale with $10.4M. Declining a moderate 37% in its second weekend, the Heath Ledger action-romance has grossed $31.9M in ten days. A Knight's Tale carries a negative cost of $41M and could find its way to a domestic gross of $60-70M.

Jennifer Lopez debuted in the number four spot with her new thriller Angel Eyes which grossed $9.2M in its opening weekend. Playing in 2,375 theaters, the Warner Bros. release averaged a decent $3,886 per location. Angel Eyes features the pop diva playing a troubled Chicago cop whose life is saved by a man (Jim Caviezal) with a mysterious past. Directed by Luis Mandoki (Message in a Bottle), the R-rated film scored a B- with audiences polled by CinemaScore and saw a 14% Friday-to-Saturday increase. Lopez last hit theaters in January with the more upbeat romantic comedy The Wedding Planner which opened with $13.5M ($4,851 average) and went on to collect a solid $60.4M.

Fox's Moulin Rouge generated a sparkling performance in its platform opening in New York and Los Angeles grossing a fabulous $167,540 from only two theaters. Debuting in the mammoth Ziegfeld Theater in midtown Manhattan and the Avco cinema in Westwood, the Nicole Kidman-Ewan McGregor musical romance averaged a scorching $83,770 per site. The story, set in 1890s Paris, revolves around a poet who falls into the electrifying world of a seductive dancer.

Opening a glamorous musical in the beginning of the summer season is an unorthodox move for any studio so Fox is using several techniques in raising moviegoer interest. Moulin Rouge opened the Cannes Film Festival to much fanfare and the exclusive runs beginning this weekend are aimed to stir consumer and media interest in the showbiz capitals of America. Music is playing a major role in the marketing campaign too as the soundtrack debuted impressively at number five on Billboard's album sales charts while the hit single "Lady Marmalade," a remake of the Patti LaBelle classic featuring some of today's top female pop singers, has rocketed to number three. Fox hopes to have millions of fans excited by Moulin Rouge by the time its wide release in over 2,000 theaters arrives on June 1. The Baz Luhrmann-directed picture opens in its native Australia this Thursday.

Adult audiences continued to give the comedy Bridget Jones's Diary and the crime film Along Came A Spider the smallest declines in the top ten. Diary slipped 16% to $3.7M for the weekend and $56.5M overall while Spider slid 24% to $2.35M for a $67.7M total.

The auto racing picture Driven took in $1.8M, dropping 40%, lifting its tally to $29M after its fourth lap. New Line placed eighth with the Johnny Depp drama Blow which grossed $1.4M boosting its total to $49.6M.

With Shrek stealing away family audiences, Miramax's adventure hit Spy Kids lost 564 theaters and tumbled 52% to $1.3M putting its cume at $103.5M. Rounding out the top ten was the successful independent film Memento which added 39 locations and took in $1.3M from just 484 theaters. The Newmarket release witnessed an encouraging 5% jump over last weekend and has brought its total to a healthy $12M to date.

A pair of films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. Paramount's comedy sequel Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles declined 44% to $1.2M bringing its 31-day total to $22.5M. The Paul Hogan picture should end up with a domestic gross just ahead of its $25M budget. Sony's The Tailor of Panama dipped just 18% to $667,039 in its eighth weekend of semi-national release. The $18M production looks to reach about $15M stateside.

Compared to projections, Shrek bested my $35M forecast while Angel Eyes was very close to my $8M prediction.

The top ten films grossed $94.3M which was down 5% from last year when Dinosaur debuted in the top spot with $38.9M; and also down 5% from 1999 when Star Wars Episode I opened at number one with $64.8M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey and predict how big Pearl Harbor's holiday opening will be. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Universal should make a third Mummy film. Of 2,256 responses, 58% said yes while 42% thought no.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the smallest opening weekends of the year thus far. For a review of Shrek visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Pearl Harbor attacks cinemas everywhere.

Marketplace: Shop for videos, DVDs, music, books, and electronics at discounted prices using search engines

# Title May 18 - 20 May 11 - 13 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Shrek $ 42,347,760 3,587 1 $ 11,806 $ 42,387,348 DreamWorks
2 The Mummy Returns 20,435,840 33,741,755 -39.4 3,452 3 5,920 146,450,900 Universal
3 A Knight's Tale 10,406,836 16,511,391 -37.0 2,980 2 3,492 31,873,171 Sony
4 Angel Eyes 9,225,575 2,375 1 3,884 9,225,575 Warner Bros.
5 Bridget Jones's Diary 3,730,451 4,458,144 -16.3 2,142 6 1,742 56,534,427 Miramax
6 Along Came a Spider 2,352,157 3,073,656 -23.5 1,908 7 1,233 67,651,167 Paramount
7 Driven 1,827,516 3,047,384 -40.0 2,011 4 909 29,026,703 Warner Bros.
8 Blow 1,401,608 1,858,462 -24.6 1,133 7 1,237 49,565,919 New Line
9 Spy Kids 1,286,388 2,664,462 -51.7 2,035 8 632 103,544,406 Miramax
10 Memento 1,280,291 1,216,643 5.2 484 10 2,645 11,990,528 Newmarket
11 Crocodile Dundee in LA 1,207,435 2,157,568 -44.0 1,993 5 606 22,472,490 Paramount
12 The Tailor of Panama 667,039 817,311 -18.4 440 8 1,516 11,477,105 Sony
13 Joe Dirt 456,815 752,845 -39.3 734 6 622 26,492,669 Sony
14 Kingdom Come 425,281 766,030 -44.5 506 6 840 22,103,187 Fox Searchlight
15 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 395,399 481,194 -17.8 438 24 903 126,071,283 Sony Classics
16 Traffic 323,878 407,950 -20.6 355 21 912 123,083,548 USA Films
17 The Golden Bowl 285,506 111,967 155.0 91 4 3,137 663,035 Lions Gate
18 Enemy at the Gates 282,472 503,267 -43.9 520 10 543 50,507,533 Paramount
19 Chocolat 264,134 750,548 -64.8 429 23 616 70,527,706 Miramax
20 O Brother Where Art Thou? 256,179 312,291 -18.0 291 22 880 43,410,848 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 86,146,462 $ 60,832,330 41.6
Top 10 94,294,422 69,546,776 35.6
Top 20 98,858,560 75,188,542 31.5
Top 20 vs. 2000 98,858,560 109,650,653 -9.8

Last Updated : May 21, 2001 at 8:15PM EDT