'Shrek' tops sluggish sesh in third frame

“Shrek Forever After” won what was an overall tepid weekend at the domestic B.O., earning an estimated $25.3 million at 4,386 locations.

Despite a varied crop of wide openers that targeted differing demos — with the ogre holdover added to the mix — box office receipts were down a steep 23% compared to the same weekend last year.

The Paramount-DreamWorks Animation 3D toon, dropping just 42% in its third frame, beat out leading debut title Universal’s R-rated laffer “Get Him to the Greek.” Pic opened on the high-end of studio expectations, earning an estimated $17.4 million at 2,697 locations, while Lionsgate’s femme-driven romantic comedy “Killers” also played according to B.O. forecasts, with $16.1 million at 2,859.

The frame’s other wide releases, 20th Century Fox’s “Marmaduke” and Warner Bros.’ “Splice,” both saw underwhelming results among respective targeted demos. “Splice,” targeting a male-heavy aud, debuted with $7.5 million at 2,450; and “Marmaduke,” which appealed mostly to family auds, grossed an estimated $11.3 million at 3,213 engagements.

Based on the famed comic strip Great Dane, “Marmaduke” repped the pack’s only major day-and-date release in 13 overseas markets, including Brazil and Russia, for a modest $3.5 million on 1,473 screens.

Warner Bros.’ franchise sequel “Sex and the City 2″ topped the international market, expanding to 49 territories for an estimated weekend take of $45 million on 7,970 screens. Impressive turns in Australia and France, with respective $7.6 million and $3.9 million, boosted the pic’s overseas gross to $90 million.

Domestically, box office totals saw little boost during what B.O. observers expected to be a soft weekend compared to last year, which benefited from top players “The Hangover and “Up.” Pics ran neck-and-neck, contributing nearly $45 million each. Tracking for this year’s opening titles predicted modest earnings.

Specialty distrib Magnolia debuted the Neil Jordan-directed “Ondine” at five U.S. locations, totaling an estimated $30,000 for a per-screen average of $6,000.

“Shrek” continued to profit as the frame’s highest grossing family-friendly pic. Toon also benefited from franchise recognition among a broad demo base and higher ticket prices for the 3D format.

DWA head of worldwide marketing Anne Globe said 3D ticket sales have increased from approximately 61% of previous weekend’s gross to 67% this weekend. “Our movies are hitting their mark, especially in 3D,” Globe said, before adding that “family films have been dominating the box office in the past few weeks.”

Par’s “How to Train Your Dragon” saw a similar lack of competition on the kidpic front since its release March 26; the 3D toon, which added an estimated $460,000 in its 11th frame, has since cumed $213.9 million. “Shrek” should continue to play to families relatively unchallenged until Disney launches its 3D toon installment “Toy Story 3″ June 18.

Appealing to older auds, U’s “Get Him to the Greek” fared best among the frame’s new entries, with 55% of its aud over 30. Pic, starring “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” alums Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, saw a 53%-47% male-female split.

U prexy of domestic distribution Nikki Rocco described the film as a “raunchy comedy with drugs, sex and rock and roll.” Bolstered by an aggressive marketing campaign and advanced screenings, pic scored a B+ CinemaScore rating among its core younger male aud.

“These sort of films tend to have legs, particularly in the summer time,” Rocco said. “And with word of mouth for this film, I suspect it will linger around.”

Co-financed by Relativity Media and Spyglass Entertainment, with a budget of $40 million, “Greek” reteams “Marshall” writer-director Nicholas Stoller, with Judd Apatow as producer. “Marshall” opened with $17.7 million in 2008, cuming $63.2 million domestically.

Rated PG-13, “Killers” played more to femmes, which accounted for 62% of the film’s aud; but like “Greek,” “Killers” saw a relatively even split among the age groups.

Toplining Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher, “Killers” opened in line with studio expectations, but overperformed on Saturday. “One of the positives is that we had a much better-than-expected Saturday, up 11%,” said Lionsgate distrib topper David Spitz.

Both “Marmaduke” and “Splice” underperformed, playing to limited auds. Still, Fox senior VP of domestic distribution Bert Livingston said the summer B.O. season should bode well for family-driven “Marmaduke.”

“This is the week that most kids are out of school,” Livingston added. “Now is the start of the summer season so every day can play like a Saturday.”

Likewise, Warner exec VP of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein said “Splice” could gain traction among younger crowds given summer school vacations, as well as a lack of similar product in the coming weeks. “For that audience, there’s really nothing else in that genre,” Goldstein said.

“Splice” has garnered generally favorable reviews but received a not-so-favorable D CinemaScore rating, which could limit playability beyond its core demo. Warner is distributing the sci-fi horror pic; producer Joel Silver purchased the rights at this year’s Sundance.

While landing ahead of “Marmaduke” and “Splice,” holdovers “Sex 2″ and Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” dropped considerably in their soph seshes. “Sex 2″ fell a less-than-stellar 59%, earning $12.7 million at 3,445 runs for a domestic cume of $73.4 million. “Prince,” down 54%, grossed $13.9 million at 3,646, bringing its cume to $59.5 million.

Par’s “Iron Man 2″ entered its fifth frame, nearing the $300 million domestic benchmark, with an estimated weekend gross of $7.8 million at 3,007 locations. Worldwide totals for “Iron Man 2″ stand at a boffo $580 million.

Top overseas player “Sex 2″ reached $163.4 million globally this weekend. In Oz, the sequel debuted with $7.6 million, including previews, on 562 screens, while French auds paid out an estimated $3.9 million on 526.

Succumbing to the “Sex 2″ roll out, Disney’s “Prince” grossed $37.6 million in 48 territories on 10,316 screens, bringing its international cume to a healthy $156.4 million.

Russia repped “Prince’s” top market, with $5.5 million on 556 screens, down 41% in its soph sesh, followed by a 27% decline in China, which brought in $4.4 million on 1,250. Totals for the respective territories stand at $17.9 million and $14.8 million. The only major market to launch “Prince” was Brazil, where the film earned $3.6 million on 329.

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