‘Shrek 3’ gears up

Film gets ready for international invasion

In this summer’s parade of global day-and-date releases, not every tentpole is in step.

The newly minted Paramount Pictures Intl. will buck the trend with “Shrek the Third.”

On May 18, the CG toon will open in the U.S., Russia and a few Southeast Asian markets. Then it will gradually open in major markets in June and July, coinciding with school holidays, hoping to catch kids and families at the optimal time in each territory.

The release follows the pattern laid out by the earlier “Shrek” pics, as well as the toons “Over the Hedge” and “Madagascar.”

Other studios say day-and-date makes more sense for their tentpoles because of marketing strategies and fears of piracy. But “Shrek” continues to go its own course.

“We have always found that the best opportunity for us is to follow holidays on a country-by-country basis,” says DreamWorks Animation topper Jeffrey Katzenberg. “May 18 is a fantastic date in this country, but there are places in the world in which we have the only PG family comedy during the first big summer wave of product. What we’re doing is making it available when the audience is available.”

“Shrek the Third,” which marks the first tentpole release for newly minted Paramount Pictures Intl., will go into France, Australia, Brazil and Mexico in mid-June, followed by Germany and Spain on June 21, and the U.K. and Japan on June 29.

“The film will do much better having access to the holidays,” insists PPI topper Andrew Cripps.

Furthermore, PPI will have a little longer to promote “Shrek 3” than if it went day and date; the staggered release allows tours by some of the key cast members to major markets alongside the local voices of the “Shrek” characters.

As for piracy, execs say it isn’t as big a problem with pics aimed at kids as it is for other films.

Most of the other summer biggies will be day-and-date: “Spider-Man 3,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: End of the World,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “Ocean’s Thirteen,” “Fantastic Four — Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “Transformers” and “The Simpsons Movie.”

The studios releasing those pics concluded it’s the most effective way of wrestling marketing and distribution challenges — particularly those ubiquitous pirates.

And at a time of increased marketing costs, they say it makes sense to take advantage of moviegoing patterns being fairly predictable, particularly for sequels and broad comedies.

However, other family-friendly hits like “Ice Age: The Meltdown” and “Cars” also use staggered release patterns to coincide with holidays in specific markets. That tactic enables studios to make adjustments in marketing once a pic’s opened in the U.S.

Ben Fritz in Hollywood contributed to this report.

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