Weekend Box Office (May 28 - 31, 2004)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers packed the multiplexes all across North America to see the DreamWorks ogre sequel Shrek 2 and Fox's disaster epic The Day After Tomorrow over the Memorial Day holiday frame generating the biggest weekend in box office history. The one-two punch of different, but broadly-appealing popcorn movies, led to an eye-popping $181M in combined grosses for the pair over the long weekend accounting for 77% of all business in the top ten. Two new comedies, Raising Helen and Soul Plane, were met with more modest results in their debuts. For the first time ever, two films sold $65M or more worth of tickets during the same weekend as the marketplace expanded greatly over the holiday session to accommodate the hugely popular titles.

Still holding onto the box office crown, Shrek 2 laughed up $72.2M over three days and a staggering $95.6M over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, according to final studio figures, boosting the computer-animated film's total domestic haul to an unbelievable $260.3M after only 13 days of release. Playing in a record 4,223 theaters, the DreamWorks cash machine averaged a stellar $22,633 over four days during its second weekend and witnessed a mild 33% dip over its three-day sum indicating strong legs and healthy repeat business.

Shrek 2 beat out Spider-Man to become the fastest film to reach the quarter-billion mark doing the deed two days sooner than the webslinger. The ogre's three-day sum also edged out Spidey's $71.4M to rank as the best sophomore weekend performance ever. Higher ticket prices, 600 more theaters, and the holiday boost certainly helped Shrek 2 achieve these new records, but its sheer power over the box office is unquestionable. The film also beat out the $90.2M of 1997's The Lost World (excluding Thursday night previews) to claim the largest gross ever over Memorial Day weekend.

The Mike Myers-Eddie Murphy-Cameron Diaz megahit has many notable hurdles ahead of it. By Wednesday, it will surpass the $267.7M domestic take of the first Shrek. Next weekend, the triple-century mark will be shattered, and by mid-June, Shrek 2 should beat out Finding Nemo's $339.7M to become the top-grossing toon ever and find its way into the all-time top five. Currently, the Shrek-n-Fiona tale stands proudly at number 25 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters right behind Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets which took in $262M in 2002.

Storming into the runnerup spot with the largest gross in history for a number-two picture was Fox's disaster film The Day After Tomorrow with a monumental $68.7M over three days and $85.8M over the four-day span. Directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla), the PG-13 entry averaged a mighty $20,071 from 3,425 theaters over three days and a stunning $25,053 over four days to beat out Shrek 2's sophomore averages. The debut was well above industry expectations going into the weekend.

The studio unleashed Tomorrow all over the steadily-warming planet attacking 110 countries and generated the largest global opening for a non-sequel ever, according to Fox. International waters brought in a hefty $85M over the Friday-to-Sunday period from over 9,600 screens giving the Dennid Quaid-Jake Gyllenhaal pic a towering $155M gross in its first weekend. Most of that, $53.9M, came from Europe while Asia added $19.2M and Latin America kicked in $11.9M. Carrying a reported production budget of $125M, Tomorrow finds humanity dealing with the rapid onslaught of extreme freezing, tornadoes, hail storms and other natural disasters caused by climate changes due to mankind's neglect of the environment.

The Day After Tomorrow's four-day tally ranks as the second-best Memorial Day weekend opening ever after The Lost World and slightly edges out last year's Bruce Almighty which premiered to $85.7M over the long weekend on its way to $242.8M. The three-day sum is the third-best in studio history for Fox trailing the sequels X2: X-Men United ($85.6M) and Star Wars Episode II ($80M) which were also May bows. Critics were not too kind, but audiences rushed to theaters for two hours of Mother Nature-induced thrills.

Among films not grossing over $85M during the long weekend was the epic gladiator picture Troy with $15.3M over four days in its third battle. The three-day portion for the Warner Bros. actioner tumbled a hefty 50% from last weekend with the cume reaching $110M after 18 days. The Wolfgang Petersen-film is now the fifth release of 2004 to cross the century mark and ranks as Brad Pitt's second highest-grossing movie ever after Ocean's Eleven. Overseas, Troy continues to flex more muscles than in the domestic market and hauled in an additional $39M from nearly 10,000 screens pushing the overseas total to $216M. A worldwide gross north of $400M seems likely for the $175M epic.

Kate Hudson charmed audiences in fourth place with the motherhood comedy Raising Helen which took in a four-day gross of $14.2M. Directed by Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries), the PG-13 film averaged a moderate $5,241 over the long weekend from 2,717 locations. Buena Vista released Helen as a counter-programming choice for female audiences over the holiday session, but with Shrek and Tomorrow playing so broadly, it was tough to break through.

Landing in fifth place with $7M was the urban comedy Soul Plane starring Snoop Dogg, Method Man, and Tom Arnold. The critically-panned MGM release averaged a barely-decent $4,476 per theater over four days. Budgeted at $16M, the R-rated pic follows the hijinks aboard the maiden voyage of the first African-American airline.

Dropping to sixth place with $6.8M was the monster mash Van Helsing which has grossed $110.7M after 25 days. Overseas, the expensive Universal actioner is fading fast experiencing declines from 45% to 65% this weekend. It pulled in $6.5M from 42 territories for an international cume of $131M and a worldwide tally of $241M.

The high school comedy hit Mean Girls took in $6.4M in its fifth class and boosted its cume to $73.7M. Denzel Washington followed with Man on Fire which collected $2.8M raising the total to $73.7M. Sony's 13 Going On 30 dropped to $1.5M for a $54.6M sum.

The summer's first indie hit Super Size Me continued to grow expanding by 49 locations in its fourth serving and grossed $1.4M from 197 theaters. Averaging a big and tasty $7,114 per site over the long weekend, the Roadside/Goldwyn release has lifted its total to $4.9M with a fattening road still ahead of it. Last year at this point, arthouse audiences were flocking to Bend It Like Beckham and A Mighty Wind while a year earlier they were lining up for My Big Fat Greek Wedding proving there is a healthy market for those not looking for the big Hollywood blockbusters.

Opening with heavenly results in limited release was the religious school satire Saved which bowed to $459,386 from 20 theaters. The UA title averaged a powerful $22,969 over four days and stars Mandy Moore and Macaulay Culkin.

The top ten films grossed a record $236.9M over the four-day weekend which was up 25% from last year's holiday frame when Bruce Almighty opened at number one with $85.7M; and up 24% from 2002 when Star Wars Episode II stayed on top with $60M.

Compared to projections, The Day After Tomorrow opened much stronger than my $63M four-day forecast. Raising Helen bowed close to my $16M prediction while Soul Plane was on target with my $7M projection.

For reviews of The Day After Tomorrow, Shrek 2, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when the new Harry Potter film opens.

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

# Title May 28 - 31 May 21 - 23 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Shrek 2 $ 95,578,365 $ 108,037,878 -11.5 4,223 2 $ 22,633 $ 260,313,719 DreamWorks
2 The Day After Tomorrow 85,807,341 3,425 1 25,053 85,807,341 Fox
3 Troy 15,338,115 23,925,330 -35.9 3,411 3 4,497 109,986,882 Warner Bros.
4 Raising Helen 14,239,252 2,717 1 5,241 14,239,252 Buena Vista
5 Soul Plane 7,008,711 1,566 1 4,476 7,008,711 MGM
6 Van Helsing 6,750,480 10,561,655 -36.1 2,891 4 2,335 110,728,815 Universal
7 Mean Girls 6,433,613 6,907,627 -6.9 2,618 5 2,457 73,710,506 Paramount
8 Man on Fire 2,840,865 3,680,522 -22.8 1,430 6 1,987 73,722,956 Fox
9 13 Going On 30 1,451,872 2,512,234 -42.2 1,164 6 1,247 54,561,017 Sony
10 Super Size Me 1,401,509 973,644 43.9 197 4 7,114 4,934,453 Roadside / Goldwyn
11 Breakin' All the Rules 1,068,195 2,845,368 -62.5 890 3 1,200 10,984,460 Sony
12 Kill Bill Vol.2 758,952 1,078,811 -29.6 445 7 1,706 64,084,276 Miramax
13 Walking Tall 546,991 459,111 19.1 666 9 821 45,860,039 MGM
14 NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience 491,701 338,406 45.3 63 12 7,805 12,302,234 Warner Bros.
15 Saved! 459,386 20 1 22,969 459,386 UA
16 A Day Without A Mexican 434,940 554,434 -21.6 107 3 4,065 2,042,724 Televisa Cine
17 New York Minute 415,093 1,302,152 -68.1 605 4 686 13,486,603 Warner Bros.
18 Coffee and Cigarettes 362,532 36 3 10,070 816,020 MGM
19 Laws of Attraction 361,762 924,734 -60.9 394 5 918 17,584,452 New Line
20 Eternal Sunshine 356,687 342,428 4.2 187 10 1,907 33,473,509 Focus
Top 5 $ 217,971,784 $ 153,113,012 42.4
Top 10 236,850,123 161,825,221 46.4
Top 20 242,106,362 166,171,405 45.7
Top 20 vs. 2003 Mem Day 242,106,362 197,238,948 22.7

Last Updated : June 2, 2004 at 9:00AM EST

Gitesh Pandya can be seen each Friday on "The Biz" airing at 12:30pm and 9:30pm ET on CNNfn.