‘Shrek’ on deck for B.O. bonanza

Visions of summer-long legs dancing in exex's heads

It should be a “Shrek” of a weekend.

DreamWorks’ digital toon debuts with a startling 3,587 playdates — the second biggest bow ever, behind last year’s “Mission: Impossible 2.” Such a launch is no easy feat, as exhibitors continue to shed screens and locations. But it’s a clear sign that the film is playing well to all demos.

In a two-screen bow Wednesday in Gotham and L.A., “Shrek” brought in $20,000 — a haul similar to that of “Chicken Run,” DreamWorks’ last animated effort, which bowed when more kids were out of school last June.

“People of every age are wanting to see it in all markets, so we decided to go very wide with it,” said DreamWorks distrib chief Jim Tharp. “We also know that setting it up before Memorial Day weekend is the best approach.”

Summer legs

Tracking for next Friday’s release of “Pearl Harbor” is through the roof, but “Shrek,” like “Chicken Run,” is widely seen as a legs pic that could run all summer.

Animated by PDI, now a subsid of DreamWorks, “Shrek” pokes fun at rival Disney even as the pic occupies the same late-May release slot as the Mouse House’s “Dinosaur.”

A rep for Fandango.com noted the advance ticketer had been getting a lot of orders for blocks of as many as a dozen tickets for “Shrek.”

“We’ve seen a surprisingly large number of our users buying large blocks of tickets,” Fandango chief Art Levitt said. “That’s a strong indication that the movie isn’t only attracting all age groups but that entire families are planning to see the movie together, which will help propel it to very successful opening weekend.”

Estimates from rival studios and others put “Shrek” somewhere north of $30 million.

Modest ‘Angel’

The frame’s other wide bow, Warner Bros.’ Jennifer Lopez starrer “Angel Eyes,” is seen in much more modest terms.

Universal’s “The Mummy Returns” enters its third frame with more than $120 million in the till. It should remain a major factor, at least until “Pearl Harbor” cuts into its aud next weekend.Also bowing in limited release is Fox’s “Moulin Rouge,” which goes wide on June 1.

Observers expect total grosses to be solid if not spectacular. The comparable weekend in 2000 delivered $116 million.