“Shrek 2,” a cartoon revolving around a green ogre and his princess bride, trampled even the most optimistic forecasts as it set several new opening records at the weekend box office and kick-started the lucrative summer movie going season into high gear.
The animated sequel sold about $125.3 million worth of tickets in its first five days of release across North America, its distributor, DreamWorks, said Sunday.
If figures hold when final numbers are released Monday, the total haul will set a new record for a Wednesday release, beating the $124.1 million earned by “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” last December.
For the three days beginning Friday, the traditional start of the weekend box office, the film earned $104.3 million, making it the second-best opener behind “Spider-Man,” which kicked off its run with $114.8 million in 2002.
“No one thought we could get above the mid-80s for the three days,” said Jim Tharp, president of domestic theatrical distribution at DreamWorks.
Executives at the closely held studio had merely hoped to set a new record for an animated opening, beating the $70 million bow of “Finding Nemo” a year ago, he said.
Its Saturday haul of $44.8 million is the best for any single day, beating “Spider-Man’s” first Saturday of $43.6 million. The three-day tally for “Shrek 2” also ranks as the best opening so far this year, ahead of “The Passion of the Christ,” which debuted with $89.3 million in February. Additionally, the film opened in a record 4,163 theaters.
According to exit polls, more than 80 percent of moviegoers said they would definitely recommend the film, and more than 70 percent would see it again, Tharp said.
While a Wednesday opening tends to dilute weekend sales, Tharp said the positive word of mouth from the first two days actually boosted subsequent business.
As for another sequel, “Until today it was presumptuous to think about it,” said Ann Daly, head of DreamWorks’ animation division, “but let me tell you, we’re thinking about it now.”
The first “Shrek,” released in May 2001, opened with $42.4 million in its first weekend, and went on to earn $267.7 million domestically.
“Shrek 2,” which received its world premiere at the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival, follows the title character (voiced by Mike Myers) as he and his new princess bride, Fiona (Cameron Diaz), visit her regal parents (John Cleese and Julie Andrews). It was directed by Andrew Adamson, who worked on the first one, along with Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon. The film was budgeted at between $70 million and $75 million, DreamWorks said.
Elsewhere at the box office, incumbent champ “Troy” slipped to No. 2 with $23.8 million in its second weekend, after a relatively modest drop of 49 percent. The worldwide total for the Brad Pitt costume epic stands at $232 million, including $85.8 million from North America. The film was released by Warner Bros. Pictures, a unit of Time Warner Inc.
The monster thriller “Van Helsing” was at No. 3, also down one place, with $10.1 million and a 17-day haul of 100.2 million. Its worldwide total stands at $229 million, said a spokesman for Universal Pictures, which is owned by General Electric Co.-controlled NBC Universal.
Rounding out the top five were “Mean Girls” (Paramount Pictures) and “Man on Fire” (20th Century Fox) with $6.9 million and $3.5 million, respectively. Their domestic totals rose to $64.7 million and $69.3 million, respectively.
Paramount is a unit of Viacom Inc. Fox is a unit of News Corp.’s Fox Entertainment Group Inc.
The top 10 featured only one other newcomer. The acclaimed documentary “Super Size Me,” in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock risks his life to eat exclusively at McDonald’s Corp. restaurants for 30 days, jumped two places to No. 10 with $953,000 from just 148 theaters. Its three-week haul stands at $2.9 million. The film was released by privately held entities Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films.