Weekend Box Office (May 18 - 20, 2007)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Movie fans came out in droves to see their favorite green ogre's newest adventure as Shrek the Third easily captured the box office crown and broke the record for the biggest opening ever for an animated film. That sent the super hero saga Spider-Man 3 down to the runnerup spot but the overall marketplace once again beat last year's levels for the third straight weekend giving the summer movie season an explosive start.

Executives at DreamWorks Animation and Paramount were drinking green champagne this weekend thanks to Shrek the Third which debuted to an astounding $121.6M, according to final studio figures, over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $122.5M since its early launch at 10pm on Thursday night in about 1,000 theaters. Invading 4,122 total locations, the PG-rated toon averaged a stunning $29,507 per cinema and surpassed the $108M bow of 2004's Shrek 2 which previously held the record for the biggest animated opening. That film, which was the first in history to break the 4,000-theater threshold, debuted on a Wednesday and captured $129M over its five-day premiere period. The next biggest toon opening is $70.5M for the 2004 Disney/Pixar vehicle The Incredibles which just shows how different the league that the Shrek franchise lives in is.

Third also set new opening weekend records for both DreamWorks and Paramount beating Shrek 2 and War of the Worlds ($64.9M), respectively. The ogre sequel also generated the third best opening of all-time trailing only Spider-Man 3's $151.1M from earlier this month and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest's $135.6M from last July. That ranking should slip another spot next weekend after the new Pirates film sets sail.

The new ogre sequel grossed $907,000 on Thursday from night-before showings beginning at 10pm, hauled in $38.4M on Friday (its true opening day), surged 23% to $47.1M on Saturday, and dipped 23% on Sunday to $36.1M. Shrek 2, which opened on the same exact weekend three years ago, suffered a similar 22% Saturday-to-Sunday dip in its debut frame. The production budget on the new installment is estimated to be $160-170M.

Reuniting the voice talents of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and Antonio Banderas, Shrek the Third adds some new characters including a teen would-be king voiced by Justin Timberlake. The slender 92-minute film was not very well-liked by critics and earned the worst reviews for the franchise just as Spider-Man 3 did a couple of weeks ago. However, moviegoers again disregarded the critics and came out for some early summer fun dropping some mighty big bags of cash at multiplexes nationwide. Shrek dominated the attention of ticket buyers and accounted for about 70% of all sales for the Top 20.

Studio research showed that Fiona's hubby appealed to all audience segments becoming a true four-quadrant pic. Females made up 51% of the crowd and those over and under the age of 25 were evenly split. Teens, young adults, and families all came out in strong numbers. Those polled by CinemaScore gave the toon a B+ grade which is decent, but not spectacular. A fourth chapter of Shrek is already in development for a planned 2010 release.

Dropping 50% in its third weekend was two-time box office champ Spider-Man 3 with $29M. Sony's webslinger sequel flew to $282.4M (including Imax grosses) from North America and averaged $6,712 from a record high 4,324 theaters. After 17 days, the Venom pic shot up to number 28 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just ahead of The Matrix Reloaded which grossed $281.5M in 2003. Given its rate of erosion and upcoming competition from Captain Jack, the third webcrawler still looks on a course to conclude its domestic run with $340-350M.

Spider-Man 3 continues to rank number one in most international territories and grossed $49.6M overseas this weekend pushing its offshore cume to a scorching $465M and the global gross to a towering $747M. The latest Peter Parker tale has now become the top-grossing Spidey film overseas surpassing the $418M for the first film in 2002 and the $410M of Spider-Man 2 in 2004. The third chapter has really taken off internationally as overseas box office accounts for 62% of the global tally. The first two super hero installments saw about 52% of their worldwide groesses come from outside of North America.

Fox's horror sequel 28 Weeks Later dropped one spot to third place with $5.5M bringing the ten-day total to $18.9M. The well-reviewed virus thriller declined by only 44% which is impressive for a fright flick. Still, Weeks looks to finish with about $30-32M or about one-third less than the $45.1M of 2003's 28 Days Later.

Only scraps were left for the other films playing at multiplexes as the rest of the movies in the top ten attracted weekend averages of less than $1,500 each. Universal's Jane Fonda-Lindsay Lohan pic Georgia Rule dropped 45% to $3.7M in its second weekend pushing its ten-day total to a weak $12.9M. Look for a disappointing $20-22M final for the R-rated film which few have been showing interest in.

Three-time chart-topper Disturbia took in $3.7M as well, off only 21%, for a $71.4M cume for Paramount. The sleeper hit should find its way to around $80M. New Line's Anthony Hopkins starrer Fracture dipped just 23% to $2.3M putting the sum at $34.5M. A final tally of roughly $40M should result.

The Lionsgate comedy Delta Farce followed its dismal bow with a troubling 46% fall to $1.9M this weekend for a miniscule total of $6.1M in ten days. It will try to limp to a $10M overall gross. Following in eighth place was Buena Vista's The Invisible with $1.3M, down 44%, putting the cume at $17.7M. The supernatural thriller will probably end up with about $21M.

British import Hot Fuzz continued to have good legs dipping only 25% to $1.3M pushing the total to $21.1M. Focus will try to get to $25M. Rounding out the top ten was Will Ferrell's Blades of Glory with $1.1M, down 25%, for a $115.4M cume for Paramount.

Fox Searchlight enjoyed continued success with the expansion of the Keri Russell starrer Waitress which widened from 65 to 116 theaters for a $1.1M weekend and a solid $9,319 average. That doubled the comedy's cume to $2.1M. This Friday, Waitress will expand again to most markets across the country reaching over 500 theaters playing as an indie alternative to the mindless popcorn films of early summer.

Meanwhile in just two theaters, the distributor saw a powerful debut for its musical romance Once which grossed $61,901 for a sizzling $30,951 per site. Showered with praise from critics, the R-rated film premieres in eleven new cities on Friday.

Yari Film Group had a mild debut for its ensemble drama Even Money which bowed to $22,465 from six playdates for a not-so-impressive $3,744 average. Danny DeVito, Kim Basinger, and Forest Whitaker star.

Tumbling out of the top ten this weekend was Disney's animated comedy Meet the Robinsons which fell a steep 72% thanks to the ogre's arrival to $503,975. The G-rated toon has grossed $95.3M after its eighth weekend and may be headed for a $97M finish. Paramount's big-budget action flop Next fell 38% to $1.1M giving the Nicolas Cage actioner an embarrassing $16.5M to date. A wimpy $19M final seems likely.

The top ten films grossed $171.4M which was up 12% from last year when The Da Vinci Code opened at number one with $77.1M; and up 10% from 2005 when Star Wars Episode III debuted on top with $108.4M.

Compared to projections, Shrek the Third opened a few notches higher than my $115M forecast. Spider-Man 3 was close to my $27M prediction.

For NEW reviews of Shrek the Third and Amu visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Bug both open for the long Memorial Day holiday frame.

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

# Title May 18 - 20 May 11 - 13 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Shrek the Third $ 121,629,270 4,122 1 $ 29,507 $ 122,536,609 Paramount
2 Spider-Man 3 29,022,026 58,166,256 -50.1 4,324 3 6,712 282,379,655 Sony
3 28 Weeks Later 5,454,168 9,807,292 -44.4 2,305 2 2,366 18,914,924 Fox
4 Georgia Rule 3,745,880 6,773,870 -44.7 2,531 2 1,480 12,867,455 Universal
5 Disturbia 3,731,349 4,732,839 -21.2 2,547 6 1,465 71,379,695 Paramount
6 Fracture 2,278,362 2,953,145 -22.8 1,607 5 1,418 34,530,840 New Line
7 Delta Farce 1,852,193 3,420,645 -45.9 1,931 2 959 6,138,105 Lionsgate
8 The Invisible 1,300,769 2,315,286 -43.8 1,378 4 944 17,654,557 Buena Vista
9 Hot Fuzz 1,291,898 1,716,670 -24.7 973 5 1,328 21,125,512 Focus
10 Blades of Glory 1,091,982 1,450,594 -24.7 812 8 1,345 115,446,583 Paramount
11 Next 1,084,974 1,738,056 -37.6 1,008 4 1,076 16,526,385 Paramount
12 Waitress 1,081,022 656,988 64.5 116 2 9,319 2,122,601 Fox Searchlight
13 The Ex 703,963 1,394,229 -49.5 936 1 752 2,648,801 MGM
14 Away From Her 685,274 318,277 115.3 174 3 3,938 1,326,458 Lionsgate
15 Meet the Robinsons 503,975 1,802,543 -72.0 941 8 536 95,303,844 Buena Vista
16 Vacancy 461,563 817,962 -43.6 449 4 1,028 18,648,323 Sony
17 Wild Hogs 422,278 701,479 -39.8 512 12 825 161,663,260 Buena Vista
18 Are We Done Yet? 371,578 940,504 -60.5 530 6 701 47,883,193 Sony
19 Black Book 353,136 370,351 -4.6 193 6 1,830 2,789,696 Sony Classics
20 The Namesake 333,121 418,003 -20.3 253 10 1,317 12,556,868 Fox Searchlight
Top 5 $ 163,582,693 $ 82,900,902 97.3
Top 10 171,397,897 93,426,602 83.5
Top 20 177,398,781 101,695,023 74.4
Top 20 vs. 2006 177,398,781 158,978,135 11.6

Last Updated: May 21, 2007 at 11:45PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Friday at 9:50am ET.