B.O. ogre-achiever: $104 mil

'Shrek' leaves competish green with envy

This article was updated at 4:35 p.m.

He’s a big green box office machine.

DreamWorks’ “Shrek 2” kickstarted what had been a good-but-not-great summer season with a record-setting explosion, grossing an estimated $104.3 million Friday-Sunday to lift its five-day cume to a monstrous $125.3 million.

The perf, far above forecasts, repped the second-best Friday-Sunday total after the $115 million opening for “Spider-Man” two years ago. And Saturday’s $44.8 million take for “Shrek 2” stands as the highest single-day total, edging the first Saturday for “Spider-Man” by $1.2 million.

“We are astounded,” admitted DreamWorks distribution topper Jim Tharp. “We thought we would get in the 70s for the weekend and we hoped to get to the 80s. It’s playing exceptionally at every level.”

DreamWorks’ Sunday estimate of $104.3 million hit the mid-range of estimates with rivals’ numbers ranging from $98 million to $108 million.

DreamWorks animation head Ann Daly said the unconventional decision to open “Shrek 2” on Wednesday helped elevate the already sky-high interest by dispelling lingering skepticism over its sequel status.

‘Great word of mouth’

“With sequels, there’s always a question how good the movie is going to be, so the strong reviews and the earlier opening generated great word of mouth into the weekend,” she noted. “That helped broaden the audience well beyond families.”

Families comprised 60% of the audiences with exit surveys showing 90% of that demo ranking “Shrek 2” as “excellent” or “very good.” More than 80% of those surveyed said they would recommend the pic and over 70% said they plan to see it again.

If repeat viewing takes hold, “Shrek 2” could easily eclipse the $267.7 million taken in by the original “Shrek” and even threaten the all-time animated record set last year by “Finding Nemo” at $339.7 million.

Tharp also noted the decision to go with the widest-ever opening, with 4,163 playdates, had paid off well in locations that would have normally waited several weeks for the pic. Key motive was to take advantage of the two-week window before the arrival of Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” on June 4.

“Shrek 2” set a record for five-day openers, edging “The Passion of the Christ,” which grossed $125.2 million in the five days following its Ash Wednesday debut. It also smashed the $70.3 million record set by “Nemo” for an animated pic opening and more than doubled the $42 million debut for the original “Shrek” on the same weekend three years ago.

Daly acknowledged the success of “Shrek 2” makes it more likely DreamWorks will move forward with development on two more “Shrek” films. “We have been working on a four-part story and, based on this weekend, we’re definitely going start dealing with the next film,” she added.

‘Troy’ drops 49%

The perf by “Shrek 2” also pushed it well past the cumes for last two No. 1 pix, Warner’s “Troy” and U’s “Van Helsing.” The soph sesh of “Troy” finished a distant second as it dropped 49% to $23.8 million at 3,411 playdates to lift its 10-day total to $85.8 million; U’s third weekend of “Van Helsing,” after sliding 61% in its soph session, declined 51% to $10.1 million at 3,418 sites to push the 17-day cume to $100.2 million.

Worldwide total for “Troy” has hit $231.7 million while “Van Helsing” is at $219 million.

“Gladiator,” the most recent sword-and-sandal epic, opened in 2000 with $34.8 million, declined 29% and 20% in its next two weekends on its way to cuming $187.7 million. “The Hulk,” U’s big summer entry in 2003, opened with $62 million, slid 70% and 56% and cumed $132.2 million.

“Shrek 2” accounted for more than 65% of the total weekend B.O. of $160 million, estimated by B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI. That was about even with the same Friday-Sunday last year, which repped the first three days of the Memorial Day holiday with the opening of “Bruce Almighty” and the soph sesh of “The Matrix Reloaded.”

Year-to-date, Nielsen EDI figures show the 2004 box office has hit $3.119 billion, nearly equal to $3.125 billion at the same point last year. “Shrek 2” and “Van Helsing” became the third and fourth 2004 pics to crack the $100 million barrier, joining “The Passion of the Christ” and “Fifty First Dates.”

Pix ‘higher on radar’

“I like to think this performance by ‘Shrek 2’ can get business on a real roll,” said Nielsen EDI exec VP Dan Marks. ” ‘Van Helsing’ and ‘Troy’ did solid business and now ‘Shrek 2’ has done spectacularly, which really puts moviegoing much higher on everyone’s radar.”

Par’s “Mean Girls” showed holdover power in fourth in its fourth weekend with $6.9 million at 3,054 playdates, dropping only 32% to lift its cume to $64.7 million. Fox’s fifth weekend of “Man on Fire” followed with $3.5 million at 2,104 for a 31% decline and a $69.3 million cume.

Sony/Screen Gems’ soph sesh of “Breakin’ All the Rules” took sixth the $2.8 million at 1,318 engagements, edging Sony/Revolution’s fifth frame of “13 Going on 30” with $2.5 million at 2,028. Warner’s third weekend of “New York Minute” continued its fast fade in eighth with $1.2 million at 2,360 sites, dropping 69%, followed by Miramax’s sixth sesh of “Kill Bill, Volume 2” with $1.1 million at 854 playdates.

Roadside Attractions and the Samuel Goldwyn Co.’s doc “Super Size Me” cracked the top 10 in its third frame with $953,455 at 148 engagements as it expanded by 35 screens. Pic’s cume has hit $2.9 million. Distribs’ joint venture IDP plans to expand by 30 locations over the upcoming weekend.

“Super Size” edged out New Line’s fourth weekend of “Laws of Attraction,” which grossed $950,000 at 1,010 locations.

Televisa Cine’s soph sesh of “A Day Without a Mexican” continued to perform respectably with $544,000 at 104 engagements for a $1.4 million cume. and Net Effect Media’s opening of Bollywood action-drama “Yuva” grossed $200,000 at 30 playdates.

‘Stateside’s’ quiet opening

On the arthouse circuit, First Look’s drama “Stateside” opened quietly with $117,000 at 156 playdates. Paramount Classics’ French romantic comedy “Love Me if You Dare” debuted decently with $24,100 at three screens and Magnolia’s “Control Room,” a doc about Arab news network Al Jazeera, took in an impressive $25,000 at the Film Forum in Gotham.

United Artists’ soph sesh of “Coffee and Cigarettes” took in a solid $208,000 at 17 sites to lift its cume to $371,000 and ThinkFilm’s third frame of “Still We Believe: The Boston Red Sox Film” grossed $109,471 at 54 New England engagements to cume $290,000.

“Shrek 2” will see competition next weekend from openings by Fox’s heavily promoted tentpole “The Day After Tomorrow,” Disney’s comedy-drama “Raising Helen” and MGM’s laffer “Soul Plane.”

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