'Shrek 2' Lands Far, Far Ahead of Summer Pack
HOLLYWOOD (Box Office Mojo)—A fractured fairy tale broke records as it mended a heretofore soft summer.

The widest release ever yielded the biggest single day gross ever, the highest bow ever for an animated movie (topping Finding Nemo's $70.3 million), the second best weekend ever (behind only Spider-Man's $114.8 million) and the first uber-opening of the summer.

The $70 million Shrek 2 raked in a whopping $108.0 million over the weekend at 4,163 theaters, bringing its five-day haul to $129.0 million since debuting Wednesday—the third biggest 5-day bow ever. It beat DreamWorks' $104.3 million estimate by $3.7 million, thanks to a stronger than expected Sunday.

"This was well beyond any expectations," DreamWorks head of distribution Jim Tharp told Box Office Mojo, though he added that public awareness of the picture was already up to 92% four weeks prior to the release. "Opening on a Wednesday, word-of-mouth was that this was not a cheater, and a great follow-up to first movie," he noted.

DreamWorks' exit polling indicated that 60% of moviegoers were families—the first Shrek, like most animated movies, was 80% family out-of-the-gate and then fell to 60% in later weeks—suggesting a broadening of the audience since the original. Among families, 60% were mothers and 40% were dads, while 55% were girls and 45% were boys. Among non-families, it was a 50/50 split between males and females and those over and under the age of 25. Moviegoers loved the picture overall as 81% rated it "excellent" and 11% "very good." Over 70% said they would see the movie again.

Breaking the weekend down, Shrek 2 devoured $28.3 million on Friday. It then jumped 58% on Saturday to an astonishing $44.8 million, topping Spider-Man's $43.6 million Saturday as the largest single day gross of all time. In other words, its Saturday alone topped the first Shrek's entire $42.3 million opening weekend. On Sunday morning, DreamWorks projected Shrek 2 to fall 31% to $31.1 million on Sunday, but that turned out to be conservative as it ended up easing just 22% to $34.9 million—more in line with the first Shrek and Finding Nemo which fell 24% and 21% respectively for their Sunday drops.

Prior to the weekend, Shrek 2 was already a record-breaker when DreamWorks announced it broke the 4,000-theater milestone with its 4,163 count, topping Spider-Man's 3,876 fourth weekend count as the widest release ever. Shrek 2 was simply following in the footsteps of its predecessor, which reached a then record 3,715 in its fourth weekend. To put its theater count into further perspective, according to the National Organization of Theaters Owners, there are 5,659 indoor theaters in the country (and 35,139 screens). DreamWorks will not disclose how many screens the movie is playing on.

"It's a well known movie and we needed to get out in front of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," Tharp explained the bold release pattern.

Shrek 2 is now well-positioned to become the #1 movie of the summer, just as its predecessor reigned over summer 2001 with its $267.7 million haul. For the past five years straight, the title-holder was spawned in May—The Phantom Menace in 1999, Mission Impossible 2 in 2000, Shrek in 2001, Spider-Man in 2002 and Finding Nemo last year. Going into the season, common wisdom had Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Spider-Man 2 as the movies to beat for the crown, but Shrek 2 is on a $330 million plus trajectory—the rosy end of Harry and Spidey prognostications.

When Shrek 2 garnered $11.8 million on Wednesday, DreamWorks was heralding the dubious milestone of "biggest mid-week opening for an animated movie," topping Pokemon: The First Movie's $10.1 million. Turns out, only two days later, they would find such groping for records would be unnecessary.

Though Shrek 2 was huge on Wednesday and Thursday, grossing $20.9 million, it behaved as if people didn't realize it opened on Wednesday. Generally speaking, a mid-week bow will soften the weekend and the Wednesday-Thursday gross will make up at least 25% of the 5-day bow—and usually far more for saturation releases. For Shrek 2, Wednesday and Thursday will amount to less than 17% of the 5-day haul.

"I think (Shrek 2's Wednesday bow) probably helps the weekend, unlike other Wednesday openers which can dilute it," Tharp told Box Office Mojo on Thursday. At the time, Tharp thought Shrek 2 was headed for a $60-65 million weekend as did most in the industry. "We just wanted to get above the Finding Nemo's $70.3 million for the animation record," he later added.

Shrek 2 has revived a dormant DreamWorks, and it bodes well for their aggressive-by-their-standards summer slate: Steven Spielberg's The Terminal starring Tom Hanks on June 18, the Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman on July 9 and the Tom Cruise thriller Collateral directed by Michael Mann on August 6—all three of which are candidates for $100 million plus.

DreamWorks also attached the trailer for their next CGI feature Shark Tale to all Shrek 2 prints. Utilizing a similar brand of kid and adult humor plus an all-star voice cast (Will Smith, Jack Black, Robert DeNiro, etc.), it bites into theaters Oct. 1, a frame that DreamWorks previously had success on with 1998's Antz and that gets the jump on Disney/Pixar's Nov. 5 release The Incredibles.


DAILY SHOWDOWN: 'Shrek' vs. 'Finding Nemo'