Green guy nabs third-biggest opening in history

The summer of sequels is setting a torrid pace.

Just weeks after “Spider-Man 3″ swung into theaters as the biggest opening weekend of all time, DreamWorks Animation’s “Shrek the Third” bowed to $122 million over three days — the third-biggest opening in history and biggest ever for an animated pic. Figure also reps the biggest opening for a PG-rated movie, according to DreamWorks.

The jolly green ogre stormed 4,122 theaters over the weekend in his third outing to tally an eye-popping per-location average of $29,597.

Shrek 2″ previously held the first-weekend records for animated and PG pic: It opened to $108 million in 2004 and wound up with $436.7 million domestically, according to Nielsen EDI data.

First pic in the “Shrek” series stomped to $267.6 million Stateside in 2001 and world take of $484.4 million.

“Shrek the Third” is the latest in a line of pics this year to post hearty openings despite lackluster reviews. Latest movies in both the ogre and Spidey franchises hadn’t been as enthusiastically received by critics as their prior installments, but both pics easily outpaced their predecessors at the B.O.

DreamWorks Animation marketing head Anne Globe said the “Shrek the Third” opening “significantly” outpaced the studio’s expectations.

“Shrek” has precious little time, however, to grab its share of the summer B.O. pie. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” sets sail next weekend, and multiplexes will quickly start crowding with top titles.

“We’re extremely cautious in an intensely competitive environment,” said Globe of the impending Memorial Day weekend square-off. “But we’re hoping there’s room for all of us.”

The robust perf of “Shrek the Third” relegated “Spider-Man 3″ to second place in its third frame following two weekends at the top.

Webslinger slipped 51% from the previous weekend but added $28.5 million to his tally, bringing the Sony pic’s domestic cume to $281.8 million.

Worldwide take is nearing $750 million as the third “Spider” installment looks destined to become Sony’s biggest ever film globally.

Thanks to Shrek and Spidey, overall B.O. continued to outpace the same time frame a year ago. Top 10 pics combined for $170.7 million over the latest weekend. A year ago, the top 10 combined for $152.9 million, with “The Da Vinci Code” leading the charge followed by toon “Over the Hedge.”

This summer is outpacing that of 2004 — the biggest summer in box office history — by 15%, or $70 million, so far, Nielsen said.

Unlike “Spider-Man 3,” which did socko biz starting on its first Friday — setting a single-day opening record — the Paramount-distributed “Shrek” picked up most of its biz on Saturday, as families turned out.

Pic posted $47 million on Saturday for the second-biggest single Saturday mark ever. “Spider-Man 3″ set the top Saturday mark earlier this month.

Don’t forget about…

Away from the behemoths, Fox’s “28 Weeks Later” managed to hang in on a more modest scale, scaring up $5.1 million in its second weekend, bringing cume on the zombie sequel to $18.6 million.

As nonblockbusters struggled, splitting up mostly anemic returns, a couple of specialty division pictures offered alternative fare and cracked the top 10.

“Hot Fuzz,” the cop spoof import from Focus’ Rogue imprint, wound up at No. 9 in its fifth frame, dropping just 27% vs. the previous weekend. Pic passed $21 million on U.S. shores.

Fox Searchlight’s acquisition “Waitress” served up $1.1 million in limited release to take the No. 10 slot in its third weekend. Cume is $2.1 million.

Par and DreamWorks had more good news as left-field hit “Disturbia” continued to do biz at No. 4 on the charts. Pic has cumed $71.3 million and managed to hold on to nearly 2,550 theaters after six weeks in release.

Universal’s “Georgia Rule,” starring Lindsay Lohan and Jane Fonda, dropped 48% in its second frame, taking in $3.49 million and bringing cume to $12.6 million.

New Line legal thriller “Fracture” saw biz drop just 20% as it ratcheted down its screen count to 1,607. Pic has drawn $34.6 million after five weeks.

Lionsgate military laffer “Delta Farce” dropped 46% in its second frame, playing 1,931 theaters. Pic has shot up just $6.1 million in two weekends.

Disney’s “The Invisible” saw another $1.3 million in its fourth weekend to bring its total so far to $17.6 million.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more