Weekend Box Office (May 28 - 31, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND With both of the big new Memorial Day weekend openers debuting to disappointing results, the 3D animated sequel Shrek Forever After remained at number one for a second straight weekend thanks to only a moderate decline. After claiming the top spot on Thursday and Friday, the much-hyped comedy sequel Sex and the City 2 settled for third place for the four-day weekend while the big-budget adventure pic Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time finished in between at number two. Their rankings were reversed over the three-day period.

Overall, it was the worst showing for Memorial Day weekend in nine years despite theaters charging record-high prices for tickets. Even the Martin Luther King and Presidents Day holiday frames were much bigger this year. Audiences sent a strong message to Hollywood studios - if you keep releasing subpar films and charge us more and more for them, we'll get our entertainment elsewhere.

The DreamWorks Animation toon Shrek Forever After held onto the box office crown by grossing $57.1M this weekend over the four-day Friday-to-Monday period dropping a respectable 39% from its opening. After 11 days, Paramount has taken in $146.8M - boosted in part by 3D surcharges - and could be headed for a final tally of $235-240M. That would make it the lowest-grossing installment of the ogre series despite the extra high 3D and IMAX ticket prices. 2001's Shrek grossed $267.7M, 2004's Shrek 2 took in a mammoth $436.7M, and the 2007 pic Shrek the Third banked $322.7M. All four films were released on the weekend before the Memorial Day holiday session. Third fell by a larger 56% to $53M over the Friday-to-Sunday span in its second frame so Forever is holding up better.

Opening in second with disappointing results was the expensive action adventure Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time which collected $37.8M in its first weekend of play. Based on the popular video game, the PG-13 pic averaged $10,371 per theater over four days from 3,646 locations and represented one of superproducer Jerry Bruckheimer's worst openings for an action film in recent years. Marketing the historical adventure tale as being from the producer of Pirates of the Caribbean didn't seem to fool too many moviegoers into buying a ticket. Reviews were mixed.

Persia never really sparked much interest among audiences despite a prolonged marketing push aimed at launching a new franchise. With reports putting the production cost in the range of $150M to $200M, a lot was at stake to get this film to sell tickets. Jake Gyllenhaal anchored the pic playing a rogue prince out to prevent a magical dagger from falling into the wrong hands. It wasn't his first time starring in an effects-driven action tentpole launching over the Memorial Day session. In 2004, he co-starred in The Day After Tomorrow which exceeded expectations with a $85.8M four-day debut on its way to a massive $629M score worldwide. Persia opened overseas a week earlier and has seen decent but not spectacular numbers with $61M overseas this weekend from 45 markets for a $89.5M international total and $127M global cume.

Expected to be the queens of the holiday box office, the ladies of Sex and the City 2 instead managed just a third place debut taking in $36.8M over the Friday-to-Monday span. Warner Bros. opened the R-rated sequel in 3,445 theaters and averaged $10,692 per site. Bad word-of-mouth quickly affected the Sarah Jessica Parker franchise flick. Opening day on Thursday fetched $14.2M and sales have fallen every day since. Saturday suffered a disturbing 23% fall from the previous day which was truly disastrous since Friday was not helped by the opening day rush and Saturday was a day off for the audience of adult women.

Since its Thursday bow, SATC2 has grossed $51M over five days. That means the sequel grossed less in its five-day holiday opening than its 2008 predecessor made in its three-day non-holiday bow. The first Sex debuted to $56.8M on the weekend after Memorial Day and was generally liked by fans who were expected to show up in larger numbers for the new installment. Reviews were horrendous, but franchise films like these usually can still score big bucks from loyal fans. With the road ahead expected to include large declines, City 2 will not come close to the $152.6M of the first film.

Last year, Warner Bros. launched the sequel Terminator: Salvation in the same way on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend and took in $65.3M over the first five days. That represented a whopping 52% of the film's $125.3M domestic total. If Sex follows a similar path, it may not even reach $100M. 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull also launched this way and its five-day start of $152M accounted for 48% of its eventual $317.1M total. None of these holiday weekend sequels were well liked by audiences but it can be argued that Sex is suffering from the worst buzz among the three.

The overseas launch was good but not amazing. SATC2 took in $27.6M from 17 markets including the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Brazil. The first Sex opened better with $37.2M from 13 markets, although the dollar was weaker back then.

Iron Man 2, the summer's biggest hit and the year's largest 2D grosser, followed in fourth place with $21.1M in its fourth weekend. Paramount's super hero release dropped 38% (when comparing Friday-to-Sunday periods) boosting the 25-day total to $279.1M putting the comic sequel at number 44 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just ahead of the $277.3M of last summer's The Hangover. Iron Man 2 still looks to be on a trajectory to finish close to or just a bit behind the $318.4M of its 2008 predecessor.

Universal's pricey Robin Hood saw more audience erosion falling 45% to $13.4M which put the Crowe-Scott collaboration at $86.1M after 18 days of release in North America. Moviegoers overseas have given the historical epic similar treatment. The international markets brought in an estimated $17.6M from 56 territories, down 41% from last weekend, for a $154.6M total and $240M global tally. Worldwide ticket sales should finish in the $300-350M range. After exhibitors take their share, it won't be enough to cover the massive production and marketing costs. If that wasn't bad enough, the film won't even come close to the $165.5M domestic take of Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves from the summer of 1991 when the average ticket price was just above $4.

The teen drama Letters to Juliet is holding up well with female audiences grossing $7.5M this weekend, off just 35%. Summit has collected $38.2M to date. Fox Searchlight's comedy Just Wright followed with $2.8M, down 49%, for a $18.8M cume. The hit comedy Date Night spent yet another weekend in the top ten with $2.3M in its eighth lap, down 40%, bringing Fox's total to date to $94M.

After bombing on opening weekend, MacGruber tumbled by 64% in the second frame to $2M for a dismal 11-day score of only $7.7M. Look for a final gross of around $10M making it one of the worst performances in history for a film playing in more than 2,500 theaters joining recent favorites like Lucky You, Hoot, and The Rocker. Paramount's third film in the top ten finished in the ten spot. The 3D toon How to Train Your Dragon dropped 45% to $1.5M raising the sum to $213.1M.

The top ten films grossed $182.4M over four days which was down 14% from last year's Memorial Day holiday which fell a week earlier on the calendar when Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian opened in the top spot with $70.1M; and down 14% from 2008's holiday when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull debuted at number one with $126.9M.

Compared to projections, both Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia debuted below my respective four-day forecasts of $65M and $44M.

Check the box office chart for Memorial Day weekend 2000-2009.

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

For reviews of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Shrek Forever After, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Killers, Get Him to the Greek, Splice, and Marmaduke all open.

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

# Title May 28 - 31 May 21 - 23 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Shrek Forever After $ 57,060,434 $ 70,838,207 -19.4 4,367 2 $ 13,066 $ 146,810,785 Paramount
2 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time 37,813,075 3,646 1 10,371 37,813,075 Buena Vista
3 Sex and the City 2 36,835,353 3,445 1 10,692 51,043,450 Warner Bros.
4 Iron Man 2 21,076,239 26,361,258 -20.0 3,804 4 5,541 279,076,239 Paramount
5 Robin Hood 13,424,540 18,769,220 -28.5 3,373 3 3,980 86,144,405 Universal
6 Letters to Juliet 7,492,524 9,006,266 -16.8 2,825 3 2,652 38,195,942 Summit
7 Just Wright 2,835,702 4,290,431 -33.9 1,195 3 2,373 18,833,220 Fox Searchlight
8 Date Night 2,307,657 2,913,504 -20.8 1,126 8 2,049 94,005,365 Fox
9 MacGruber 2,024,110 4,043,495 -49.9 2,546 2 795 7,674,445 Universal
10 How To Train Your Dragon 1,513,677 1,901,211 -20.4 825 10 1,835 213,117,896 Paramount
11 A Nightmare on Elm Street 1,127,395 2,321,388 -51.4 891 5 1,265 61,906,422 Warner Bros.
12 Alice in Wonderland 730,145 484,757 50.6 341 13 2,141 333,160,345 Buena Vista
13 Babies 642,273 725,266 -11.4 301 4 2,134 6,090,771 Focus
14 The Secret in Their Eyes 577,670 446,549 29.4 155 7 3,727 3,452,774 Sony Classics
15 City Island 532,862 423,423 25.8 201 11 2,651 4,862,137 Anchor Bay
16 Hubble 3D IMAX 416,829 286,107 45.7 48 11 8,684 7,097,066 Warner Bros.
17 The Back-up Plan 359,677 942,930 -61.9 391 6 920 36,594,990 CBS
18 The Bounty Hunter 354,260 148,123 139.2 287 11 1,234 66,652,479 Sony
19 Diary of a Wimpy Kid 335,000 278,032 20.5 283 11 1,184 62,769,868 Fox
20 Death at a Funeral 290,528 537,573 -46.0 247 7 1,176 41,945,596 Sony
Top 5 $ 166,209,641 $ 115,968,685 43.3
Top 10 182,383,311 138,123,592 32.0
Top 20 187,749,950 144,717,740 29.7
Top 20 vs. Memorial Day 2009 187,749,950 217,360,795 -13.6

Last Updated: June 2, 2010 at 9:00AM ET