It seems perverse to call a box office victory stemming from a $71.3 million opening weekend a disappointment, but that's the only way to categorize the debut of 'Shrek Forever After.' Even with 3-D and IMAX surcharges, it fielded the weakest opening of the three 'Shrek' sequels and underperformed even the most pessimistic estimates. At least it didn't underwhelm as badly as this weekend's other new wide release, 'MacGruber,' which earned a well-below-expectations $4.1 million and failed to crack the top five. 'Shrek'? Shrug.
It seems perverse to call a box office victory stemming from a $71.3 million opening weekend a disappointment, but that's the only way to categorize the debut of 'Shrek Forever After.' Even with 3-D and IMAX surcharges, it fielded the weakest opening of the three 'Shrek' sequels and underperformed even the most pessimistic estimates. At least it didn't underwhelm as badly as this weekend's other new wide release, 'MacGruber,' which earned a well-below-expectations $4.1 million and failed to crack the top five.
The previous 'Shrek' sequels debuted at $108 million ('Shrek 2' in 2004) and $121.6 million ('Shrek the Third' in 2007). Given the goodwill squandered by the mediocre 'Third' and weak advance buzz for the fourth, most predictions for 'Forever After' (including ours) were in the $90 to $100 million range. Distributor Paramount's was a conservative $80 million. Yet even that proved too optimistic. At this rate, 'Forever After' will be lucky to crack the $268 million the first 'Shrek' earned in 2001, much less the $320 million-plus earned by the second and third movies.
'MacGruber' had a lot going against it - it's a 'Saturday Night Live' sketch stretched to feature length, it's a parody of a show ('MacGyver') that the movie's target audience is too young to remember, its R rating kept out the teen boys to whom its juvenile humor was most likely to appeal, and its distributor didn't screen it for critics, a move that indicates a stinker to savvy moviegoers. Still, projections were in the $12 to $15 million range, for a probable fourth-place finish. Instead, the movie squeaked by with a third of that and finished at No. 6. If not for 'MacGruber's' bargain-basement budget ($10 million, which it should barely recoup), it would rank among the year's biggest flops, along with 'Remember Me,' 'The Losers,' and 'Furry Vengeance.'
As expected, the previous week's winner, 'Iron Man 2,' did about half as much business as last week, earning $26.6 million for a second-place finish and a three-week total of $251.3 million. 'Robin Hood' and 'Letters to Juliet,' both in their second weeks, also performed as expected. At. No. 3, 'Robin Hood' slipped 48 percent for an $18.7 million take and a total so far of $66.1 million. 'Juliet,' at No. 4, dipped just 33 percent and took in another $9.1 million, for a total of $27.4 million. Besides 'Juliet,' the weekend's other top romance was 'Just Wright,' at No. 5, with $4.2 million (half of last week's business), for a two-week total of $14.6 million.
One other noteworthy new film cracked the top 10: the Bollywood crossover 'Kites.' A tale of lovers on the lam that's set in the American southwest, 'Kites' is playing in two versions (a 130-minute version in Hindi, Spanish, and English, and a 90-minute version called 'Kites; The Remix' that was recut and dubbed into English by Brett Ratner) on 208 screens, a record for a Bollywood film and enough to earn 'Kites' a $952,000 opening and a tenth-place finish.
The full top 10:
1. 'Shrek Forever After,' $71.3 million (4,359 screens), new release
2. 'Iron Man 2,' $26.6 million (4,177 screens), $251.3 million total
3. 'Robin Hood,' $18.7 million (3,505), $66.1 million
4. 'Letters to Juliet,' $9.1 million (2,975), $27.4 million
5. 'Just Wright,' $4.2 million (1,831), $14.6 million
6. 'MacGruber,' $4.1 million (2,551), new release
7. 'Date Night,' $2.8 million (1,869), $90.7 million
8. 'A Nightmare on Elm Street,' $2.3 million (2,125), $59.9 million
9. 'How to Train Your Dragon,' $1.9 million (1,751), $210.9 million
10. Kites,' $952,000 (208), new release
• Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.