Shrek Forever After debuted far, far below the mighty starts of some of its predecessors, grossing $70.8 million on approximately 9,500 screens at 4,359 locations, which was the broadest launch ever for an animated movie.
Shrek the Third still holds the record for highest-grossing animated opening with $121.6 million, followed by Shrek 2 at $108 million and The Simpsons Movie at $74 million. Shrek Forever After ranks fourth on that list, although, in terms of estimated attendance, it would barely make the Top 20.
Audience erosion was to be expected for Shrek Forever After, given the historic difficulty in maintaining attention for a blockbuster franchise over time combined with the mixed reception for Shrek the Third. However, opening 41 percent lower than the last movie despite the 3D ticket price boost was alarmingly severe. In terms of attendance, the slip was even more extreme: down 59 percent.
Shrek Forever After played at a record number of 3D sites (2,373), which accounted for 61 percent of business. Included in that was a record IMAX site count (194), and IMAX made up seven percent of the gross. The 3D and IMAX ticket price premiums added around $13 million. That means Forever After may have had the least-attended opening yet for a Shrek movie. Though the first movie's debut was the lowest-grossing at $42.3 million, that was the equivalent of an estimated 7.5 million tickets or more than Forever After's estimate.
Though redubbed "The Final Chapter" by its marketing, Shrek Forever After came off as just another Shrek to moviegoers. Pushing an alternate version of the characters amounted to a fantasia on the franchise, but it didn't appear to move the story forward, appealing mostly to the core audience and few else. The campaign banked on 3D to give the movie extra kick, but 3D is not a draw in and of itself. It's shown to be mostly a revenue enhancer, and the movies themselves are the real attractions. If a movie doesn't seem special like Forever After, the 3D price premium may even be a deterrent.
Distributor Paramount Pictures' exit polling indicated that 59 percent of Shrek Forever After's audience was female and 56 percent was under 25 years old.
The weekend's other new nationwide release, MacGruber, imploded with $4 million at 2,551 sites, which was a fraction of Austin Powers and Undercover Brother and not much better than Delta Farce among past comparable May titles.
MacGruber's marketing failed to convince many that the one-joke pre-taped SNL interstitials merited a feature-length version. The ads tried to sell the action comedy angle, but most of them didn't sell the premise, just generic bumbling action, and, at this point, the MacGyver homage is lost on many without some reminder.
Iron Man 2 decelerated 49 percent in its third weekend to $26.4 million, but the first Iron Man declined 38 percent to $31.8 million at the same point. With $251 million in 17 days, Iron Man 2 still has a gross advantage over Iron Man, which was at $223.1 million, though its pattern has been closer to Spider-Man 3. If that pace keeps up, Iron Man 2 will struggle to equal Iron Man's $318.4 million final sum.
Robin Hood took a standard 48 percent hit in its second weekend, drawing $18.8 million and upping its tally to $66.6 million in ten days. It held a bit better than Kingdom of Heaven and King Arthur and about the same as Troy, but much worse than Gladiator's 29 percent.
Letters to Juliet held well in its second weekend, falling 34 percent to $9 million and bringing its total to $27.3 million in ten days. Fellow second weekend romance, Just Wright, exhausted more of its audience, down 48 percent to $4.3 million for a $14.7 million tally in ten days. Date Night had the slightest slip among nationwide releases, easing 24 percent to $2.9 million and lifting its sum to $90.7 million in 45 days.
How to Train Your Dragon felt the brunt of fellow DreamWorks Animation release, Shrek Forever After, confiscating most of its 3D screens and family attention. As a result, Dragon had its steepest drop yet, 62 percent to $1.9 million, and its total climbed to $211 million in 59 days. It needs over $4.4 million more to surpass Kung Fu Panda as DreamWorks' highest-grossing non-Shrek animated feature.
Overall weekend business came in at $150.5 million, and, while the timeframe has been far busier in the past, it was up nine percent over last year when Angels & Demons opened.