Two new movies arrived at the North American box office this weekend: the fourth and reportedly final entry in the lucrative Shrek franchise, Shrek Forever After, and the big-screen debut of the ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit character MacGruber. While the Jolly Green Ogre made a decent debut, MacGruber was stillborn from day one.
With a massive screen count (4,359 venues) that included a record amount of 3D and IMAX venues, Shrek Forever After was forecasted to debut somewhere between the openings of Shrek 2 ($108 million) and Shrek the Third ($121 million). While an estimated $71.3 million opening weekend is nothing to sneeze at, the numbers are indicating that perhaps this series has outstayed its welcome. Friday’s take was $20.8 million, lower than the $28.3 million opening Friday haul for part two (it opened on a Wednesday) and nearly 50% lower than the $38.4 million Friday debut for part three. For the new film, Saturday saw sales spike 38% to $28.8 million and Paramount was estimating a 25% drop on Sunday to $21.6 million.
Several factors can be attributed to the lower-than-expected debut of Shrek Forever After: the reviews from critics was middling-to-negative at best and the ridiculously high prices for 3D and IMAX screenings may have proved to be too rich for some viewers (can’t say I blame them in the least). Perhaps more than anything else, many may have had more than enough of Shrek, Donkey and Fiona after three films. While it was a big hit financially, Shrek the Third was a weak rehash of the first two films that didn’t go over well with most that saw it (that are older than six years old). The ads for the new film, which referred it as Shrek the Final Chapter instead of its actual title, didn’t promise anything new outside of 3D.
With no real direct competition facing Shrek over the next few weeks (Pixar’s Toy Story 3 arrives in mid-June) and with Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, the film may squeak by the $200 million mark when all is said and done, making it the lowest-grossing of the series. Dreamworks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg is no doubt breathing a sigh of relief that the studio opted to stop after four films as opposed to the six they had originally planned.
If audiences were starting to tire of Shrek, they were all but ignoring Will Forte as MacGruber. Debuting on a wide 2,551 screen count, the Universal comedy was one bomb the MacGuyver spoof character could not safely detonate. The sixth place, $4.1 million debut haul was outright awful, indicating once again that just because people get a chuckle or two out of a recurring character on a television show in 90-second increments doesn’t necessarily mean they will go and pay $12 to watch it for 90 minutes in the theater.
In second place for the weekend was the Paramount/Marvel Studios hit Iron Man 2, which added an additional $26.6 million to its coffers to bring its domestic total to $251.2 million. Off 49% from last weekend’s haul, the film is on track to finish its domestic run close to the $318 million earned by the 2008 original. In third place was Universal’s Robin Hood which had $18.7 million in ticket sales, bringing its ten-day estimated total to $66.1 million. Off 48% from last weekend’s debut, audiences seem to be a little more receptive to the film than critics were last weekend. Depending on how well the film holds over the next few weekends, the Ridley Scott production has a good shot at ending its domestic run above or near the $100 million mark. Overseas, the film is a big hit with a foreign haul of $125 million to date, which brings its global total to $191 million.
Amanda Seyfried’s romance flick Letters to Juliet held up quite well this weekend with an estimated $9.1 million in sales for a ten-day total of $27.4 million. Off only 32%, the film could finish somewhere in the neighborhood of $45-50 million for distributor Summit Entertainment. In fifth place was the Fox Searchlight basketball comedy Just Wright. Off 49%, the Queen Latifah film dunked $4.225 million in sales to bring the movie’s estimated domestic gross to $14.6 million. Hanging tough in seventh place was Fox’s comedy hit Date Night, which dropped a slight 26% to $2.8 million and a new total of $90.6 million to date. In eighth place was Warner/New Line’s remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, which was off 51% to $2.3 million and an overall gross of $60 million to date.
With Shrek arriving on the scene this weekend to steal away most of its 3D screens, Dreamworks’ other animated feature in the market, How to Train Your Dragon, dropped 63% from last weekend’s take to gross $1.8 million in ticket sales to bring that film’s domestic total to $211 million to date, just four million dollars shy of the final gross generated by Dreamworks Animation’s highest non-Shrek cartoon, 2008’s Kung Fu Panda. Rounding out the top ten this weekend is the Bollywood flick Kites, which debuted on 208 screens for a $952,000 estimated domestic gross.
Next weekend sees the debut of Sex and the City 2 on Thursday and the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced and video game-inspired Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time on Friday to duke it out with Shrek, Tony Stark and Robin Hood for your holiday weekend ticket money. Check back Tuesday to play our interactive Weekend Box Office Prophet Game to put in your best guess as to what these films will make for a shot at Blu-ray prizes.
– Shawn Fitzgerald