Weekend Box Office (May 21 - 23, 2010)

by Sujit Chawla

THIS WEEKEND The fourth film in the Shrek series took the box office crown in the third weekend of the 2010 summer movie season, but with a much smaller gross than anticipated. Meanwhile, the SNL curse continued as Universal's MacGruber crashed and burned on impact.

Shrek Forever After took charge of the box office this weekend, debuting to $70.8M from 4,359 locations (which includes 194 IMAX and 2,373 3D screens) for a per theater average of $16,251, according to final studio figures. The opening, while extremely good for most movies, is a big let down for the franchise. Below is a chart of select DreamWorks Animation titles over the last few years:

Title Opening Weekend Final Gross Opening Weekend as a % of Final Gross
Shrek $42.3M $267.7M 15.8%
Shrek 2 (Wed. open) $108.0M $441.2M 24.4%
Shrek the Third $121.6M $322.7M 37.7%
Kung Fu Panda $60.2M $215.4M 27.9%
Madagascar $47.2M $193.6M 24.3%

As you can see, each film in the Shrek series had a higher opening weekend gross than the previous one (taking into account that Shrek 2 opened on a Wednesday). While Shrek Forever After wasn't expected to meet the heights of Shrek the Third, with the 3D and IMAX surcharges added in to a huge theater count, the $70.8M has to be seen as disappointing. As you can also see, the opening weekend percentage of the final total has been going up as well, as the grosses become more and more front loaded. With less-than-stellar reviews it is distinctly possible that Shrek Forever After may not make as much money as stablemate How To Train Your Dragon, which is currently at $211M and counting.

After two weeks in the top spot, Robert Downey, Jr. and Iron Man 2 took a step back into the second spot this weekend, falling 49% to $26.4M, bringing its cume to $251M. By comparison, the original Iron Man had grossed $223.1M by the end of its third weekend back in 2008. Third place belonged to fellow hero Robin Hood which fell 48% from last weekend to $18.8M, bringing its total to $66.6M. Look for a final gross in the $115-120M range.

We're now at fourth place with still no sighting of MacGruber... Taking up residence in the fourth spot was Summit Entertainment's Letters to Juliet, which took in $9M this weekend, a drop of only 34% from last weekend's opening. Its cume now stands at $27.3M and it looks to end its run in the $55-60M range. Fifth place finds fellow sophomore Just Wright which fell 48% from last weekend to $4.3M, bringing its total to $14.7M. Look for a final gross in the $25-30M range.

Who is that I see trying to defuse a bomb with only seconds remaining? It's MacGruber! Oh no, he didn't make it! Crashing into sixth place this weekend, the Saturday Night Live sketch-turned-movie bombed at the box office, pulling in only $4M from 2,551 theaters for an average of $1,585. The opening is one of the worst of all time from a film with at least 2,500 locations. How bad was this opening? 1999's Chill Factor, starring that dynamic duo of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Skeet Ulrich opened to $4.5M from 2,558 theaters. Here's a chart of other films based on Saturday Night Live sketches:

Title Opening Weekend Screen Count Release Year
The Blues Brothers $4.8M 594 1980
Coneheads $7.1M 1,978 1993
The Ladies Man $5.4M 2,022 2000
Superstar $8.9M 1,943 1999
Wayne's World $18.1M 1,768 1992

Seventh place belonged to the film that just wouldn't quit, Date Night, which had the best hold in the top 10, dropping a slim 24% to $2.9M. Its total now stands at $90.7M. In eighth place was the horror remake A Nightmare on Elm Street which fell 50% to $2.3M, bringing its cume to $60M. It looks to end its run with a total nearly identical to 2009's remake du jour, Friday the 13th which finished with $65M.

DreamWorks Animation's second film in the top 10 ended up in ninth place this weekend as How to Train Your Dragon fell sharply with the latest animation offering taking most of its business. The dragon tale took in $1.9M this weekend bringing its cume to a robust $211M.

Rounding out the top 10 was another new title to the charts, the Bollywood film Kites. Distributed by Reliance BIG Pictures, the crossover hit opened with $1M from 207 playdates, for a per theater average of $4,632.

The top ten films grossed $141.4M which was down 16% from last year when Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian opened in the top spot with $54.2M; and down 15% from 2008 when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opened at number one with $100.8M. However in both previous years, this weekend was part of the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Compared to projections, both Shrek Forever After and MacGruber came in well below Gitesh's forecasts of $105M and $15M respectively.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

For reviews of Shrek Forever After and Kites visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time open wide.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title May 21 - 23 May 14 - 16 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Shrek Forever After $ 70,838,207 4,359 1 $ 16,251 $ 70,838,207 Paramount
2 Iron Man 2 26,361,258 52,041,005 -49.3 4,177 3 6,311 251,026,061 Paramount
3 Robin Hood 18,769,220 36,063,385 -48.0 3,505 2 5,355 66,615,690 Universal
4 Letters to Juliet 9,006,266 13,540,486 -33.5 2,975 2 3,027 27,332,507 Summit
5 Just Wright 4,290,431 8,284,989 -48.2 1,831 2 2,343 14,697,071 Fox Searchlight
6 MacGruber 4,043,495 2,551 1 1,585 4,043,495 Universal
7 Date Night 2,913,504 3,823,515 -23.8 1,869 7 1,559 90,748,818 Fox
8 A Nightmare on Elm Street 2,321,388 4,657,190 -50.2 2,125 4 1,092 59,967,500 Warner Bros.
9 How To Train Your Dragon 1,901,211 5,003,536 -62.0 1,751 9 1,086 210,990,918 Paramount
10 Kites 958,773 207 1 4,632 958,773 Reliance BIG Pictures
11 The Back-up Plan 942,930 2,387,480 -60.5 1,079 5 874 35,919,707 CBS
12 Babies 725,266 995,660 -27.2 395 3 1,836 5,102,395 Focus
13 Death at a Funeral 537,573 1,138,148 -52.8 561 6 958 41,463,030 Sony
14 Furry Vengeance 531,018 2,242,106 -76.3 1,369 4 388 16,131,784 Summit
15 Alice in Wonderland 484,757 440,202 10.1 411 12 1,179 332,194,266 Buena Vista
16 The Secret in Their Eyes 446,549 368,338 21.2 141 6 3,167 2,692,960 Sony Classics
17 City Island 423,423 442,158 -4.2 234 10 1,810 4,191,605 Anchor Bay
18 Clash of the Titans 365,731 1,231,396 -70.3 412 8 888 160,965,313 Warner Bros.
19 Oceans 351,178 752,018 -53.3 524 5 670 18,524,665 Buena Vista
20 The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo 342,837 327,304 4.7 178 10 1,926 6,274,044 Music Box
Top 5 $ 129,265,382 $ 114,933,401 12.5
Top 10 141,403,753 129,275,088 9.4
Top 20 146,555,015 135,341,305 8.3
Top 20 vs. 2009 146,555,015 172,584,609 -15.1

Last Updated: May 24, 2010 at 4:45PM ET