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Ogre freezes B.O. rivals

'Shrek 2' and 'Day After' join to blast record book

This article was updated at 6:45 p.m.

“The Day After Tomorrow” iced the box office with an $86 million four-day opening. But that record-shattering weekend was good enough only for second place, falling behind “Shrek 2’s” monstrous second-week $92.2 million at a record 4,223 playdates.

Memorial Day weekend claimed numerous records, including the best four days ever in the movie business, the first time two pictures sold more than $80 million worth of tickets in one frame, and the holiday weekend’s best take.

Buena Vista counterprogrammed with “Raising Helen,” which bowed to $14 million from 2,717 locations, while MGM’s “Soul Plane,” booked at 1,566 theaters, crash-landed with $7 million over the four-day span.

Nielsen EDI estimated the weekend’s overall box office at $240 million, 19% better than the previous best four-day record of $202 million, set last Memorial Day weekend when “Bruce Almighty” opened to $85.7 million and “The Matrix Reloaded” drew $45.6 million in its second week.

“That’s not just nosing it out,” said Nielsen EDI exec VP Dan Marks. “That’s blowing it to smithereens.”

Runner-up record

“Day After” bow marks the best second-place showing ever, stealing a record set by the original “Shrek” in 2001, when it rang up $55.2 million over Memorial Day weekend to finish behind “Pearl Harbor’s” $75.2 million opening.

“I’ll take $86 million at No. 2 any time,” said Fox distrib prexy Bruce Snyder. “The business took off. It’s a bit shocking how much bigger the marketplace expanded for these two movies.”

“Day After,” which touched off a political debate about global warming, compares favorably to Roland Emmerich’s previous best box office showing, 1996’s “Independence Day,” which grossed $96.1 million in its first five days. “Independence Day” was released on a Wednesday. Still, “Day After” will have grossed more in its first four days than the alien-invasion pic did in its first four days of release.

Elsewhere at the box office, “Troy” suffered a 50% drop. Pic, playing at 3,411 locations in its third week, claimed the No. 3 spot with $15 million, according to Warner Bros. estimates.

Snyder said “Day After” exit polls showed an aud evenly divided between men and women. In Friday shows, the aud skewed slightly younger, with 52.5% under age 25. On Saturday, the ratio reversed, with 58.5% of the aud over 25.

“Day After” also saw the widest day-and-date bow yet, picking up $85 million from 110 territories in its first three days of release.

For Friday through Sunday, DreamWorks reported “Shrek 2” — booked in a widest-ever 4,223 playdates, 60 more than its opening — declined just 33% against its perf last weekend, $72.2 million vs. $108 million.

While the ultra-wide opening was expected to lead to a steeper-than-usual drop-off this weekend, the ogre sequel has posted the best second-week perf ever, surpassing the $71.4 million snared by “Spider-Man” in its second week.

“Shrek 2” also set the record for highest-grossing pic over the Memorial Day frame, beating out “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” which took in $90.2 million during the long weekend in 1997.

DreamWorks distrib prexy Jim Tharp said the studio didn’t do any exit polling this weekend, but the feedback from exhibs was that “repeat business was a huge part of their box office.”

Tharp noted “Shrek 2’s” $257 million B.O. to date puts it on pace to pass the $268 million domestic cume for the original “Shrek” as early as Wednesday, its 15th day of release.

By releasing “Shrek 2” so widely, DreamWorks has sought to maximize the amount of box office it can amass before the next behemoth family pic hits megaplexes: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbakan” opens Friday.

“We do think we’ll take a hit this weekend,” Tharp said, “and that’s why we’re so pleased we will have outgrossed the original by the time ‘Harry Potter’ opens.”

Mixed holiday for MGM

MGM had high hopes for “Soul Plane,” a hip-hop airline laffer. “We would have liked to have done more,” said distrib topper Erik Lomis. “But it’s a very modestly budgeted film (at $15 million), and it should be a good video title.”

A brighter spot for the Lion this weekend was United Artists’ Christian high school comedy “Saved!,” which opened with $440,000 from 20 playdates in five cities, giving it a devout $22,002 per-screen average. The solid perf, Lomis said, means UA will go forward with plans to expand the pic to the top 50 markets two weeks from now.

Roadside Attractions and the Samuel Goldwyn Co.’s “Super Size Me” stuck in the top 10 for a second week, taking in $1,354,000 over the four-day frame, just behind the $1.4 million for Revolution and Sony’s “13 Going on 30.” That repped a 9% gain for the fast-food doc, which had expanded by 49 screens to 197 in its fourth week of release, boosting cume to $4.9 million.

Televisa Cine boosted the cume on “A Day Without a Mexican” to $2 million after the pic brought in $419,000 from 106 locations, a $3,953 average per screen.

Overall, Nielsen EDI said the year’s box office to date stood at $3.43 billion, 3% over the $3.33 billion at this point in 2003.

Despite the boffo results of this weekend, this year’s summer is still slightly trailing last year’s season. Through the first four weeks of summer this year, box office stands at $777.6 million, down 1% from the $786.9 million rung up during the first four weeks last year.

Among limited releases, Roger Michell’s “The Mother,” from Sony Pictures Classics, opened with $81,586 from seven screens, a strong average of $11,655. Company this weekend also bowed Mario Van Peebles’ biopic of his father Melvin Van Peebles, “Baadasssss!,” grossing $57,929 from 13 locations. IFC’s “Frankie and Johnny Are Married” debuted to thin business of $4,830 from one Gotham screen.

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