'Shrek' following 'Lion King's' B.O. footsteps

Stacked even against the biggest films in feature-animation history, “Shrek” is no dreck — and it could prove to be a “Lion.”

The DreamWorks computer-animated laffer is delivering some early grosses of Disney-like proportions. That has to be sweet for DreamWorks principal and ex-Mouse House exec Jeffrey Katzenberg — and especially galling for Disney, which had live-action mega-release “Pearl Harbor” competing for B.O. dollars this weekend.

The scope of “Shrek’s” soph-sesh accomplishment over the Memorial Day frame is best seen by comparing the $42.5 million total of its most recent Friday-Sunday grosses with its $42.3 opening. Even a modest uptick of that sort is highly unusual, and had rivals marveling at pic’s legs.

“That’s a ‘Lion King’ kind of pace,” remarked one competitor, referring to Disney’s 1994 animated blockbuster.

The “Shrek” grosses to date are also comparable with the first couple of weeks for Disney’s computer-animated laffer “Toy Story 2.” That Disney/Pixar co-production, released in November 1999, went on to gross $245.9 million domestically.

“The Lion King,” released in June 1994, is still the most successful animated pic in history, grossing $312.9 million domestically.

“Shrek,” “Toy Story 2″ and “Lion King,” which all mounted brief limited runs prior to opening wide, each surpassed the $100 million mark in their 11th day of wide release.

Meanwhile, “The Lion King” amassed its record run on the strength of particularly sturdy summer legs. So it may prove telling that “Shrek” was a tortoise to “Toy Story 2’s” hare, as the Disney pic outpaced daily cumes for “Shrek” until it reached its 10th day of release, when the DreamWorks pic posted a cume of $99 million vs. $95.5 million for “Toy Story 2.”

After 11 days, “Shrek” boasts an estimated cume of $110.7 million vs. a 11-day wide-release cume for “Toy Story 2″ of $103.2 million. “Lion King” rang up just over $104 million in its first 11 days of wide release.

Whatever its ultimate success, studio execs were reveling in the latest numbers for “Shrek,” a children’s book adaptation that has Mike Myers voicing a lovable green ogre and other vocal perfs by Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow.

“It’s truly remarkable,” DreamWorks distrib topper Jim Tharp beamed. “You really have to attribute it to an overused term, and that’s ‘word-of-mouth.’ “

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