Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shrek: The Final Chapter opens with $71 million, while MacGruber crawls to $4.1 million. Weekend box office review (05/23/10).

By any normal standards, a movie opening with $70.8 million in three days would be a pretty big success. So, before we get into what this means for the Shrek franchise, let's talk that number in cold detail for a minute. First of all, it gives the fourth Shrek picture a pretty solid 3.4x weekend multiplier, which was superior to the 3.1x scored by Shrek the Third over its opening weekend. Second of all, in the grand scheme of animated films, it is still the fourth-biggest opening weekend for a cartoon, behind only Shrek 3 ($121 million), Shrek 2 ($108 million), and The Simpsons ($74 million). Also, for what it's worth, it's the fifth-biggest opening weekend for a 'fourth chapter' in box office history, behind Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ($102 million), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($101 million), X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($85 million), and Fast and Furious ($71 million). Of course, if you glance at the numbers posted by the previous two Shrek sequels, you start to see the reason for concern. Come what may, anytime a sequel opens with $50 million less than the prior installment, that's generally a bad thing. Shrek Forever After just made less on its opening weekend than Shrek 2 made on its second weekend ($72.1 million).

Despite bad press going into the weekend about the growing cost of 3D and IMAX 3D ticket prices in the midst of a recession (in New York City, IMAX 3D tickets ran $20 a pop), the majority of audience members still felt the need to splurge, with 61% of all tickets being sold in a 'premium' format. Demographically, the film played 59% female and 56% under 25 years old. For what it's worth, the film earned an 'A' from Cinema Score. This was obviously a franchise that had been burned by the prior mediocre entry. Of course, the confused marketing (which basically switched the title a month before release) didn't help either. The main tagline, 'What the Shrek just happened?' meant nothing to those who didn't already know the It's A Wonderful Life storyline of said sequel. Plus, the pun in said tagline probably wasn't a favorite for parents to explain (nice job advertising your PG-rated family-film with a pun-variation on the R-rated phrase 'what the f-ck just happened?'). While the previous Shrek films had long-legged runs ($42m opening weekend-to-$267m total and $108m opening weekend-to-$441m total respectively), the third picture made just 2.6x its opening weekend, ending up with $322 million. As I mentioned yesterday, the comparative franchise collapse on display is almost identical to Batman & Robin in June 1997. Adjusted for inflation, the Batman & Robin figures (original numbers - $42m opening, $107m domestic finish) would be scarily reminiscent of where Shrek Forever After could be headed (adjusted for inflation - $74m opening, $185m domestic finish).

Yes, it benefits from 3D and IMAX 3D ticket prices and the relative consistency of those screens (which Dreamworks will keep until June 18th), so a better multiplier than Shrek the Third is not out of the question. Still, all three prior Shrek pictures opened on the same weekend (which is in itself impressive), so they all had the holiday advantage. Shrek grossed more on its second weekend than its first, and Shrek 2 set a record for biggest non-opening weekend at the time. But there is no reason to presume that Shrek: The Final Chapter will perform significantly better than the prior sequels. The third picture had a 2.66x weekend-to-total multiplier, which would give the fourth Shrek picture just $189 million in domestic totals. That's no flop, but it would put the Dreamworks cartoon short of Monsters Vs. Aliens ($198 million), Madagascar ($193 million), How to Train Your Dragon ($210 million and counting), and Kung Fu Panda ($215 million). Obviously, the film could earn better word of mouth than the not-that-bad third film, and Marmaduke (June 4th) can only do so much damage before Toy Story 3 opens on the 18th of June. Still, in this day and age, even a $60 million+ opening will struggle to make it to $200 million, as Quantum of Solace, Madagascar 2, Twilight, and Fast and Furious demonstrate. Point being, unless overseas numbers explode, Shrek: The Final Chapter will live up to its name as a series finale.

The other major opening was a complete and utter loss. Even at a cost of just $10 million, the Saturday Night Live comedy MacGruber is a box office flop with just $4 million over opening weekend. The marketing was all over the map with this one. Universal marketing once again dropped the ball. Despite debuting at the SXSW Film Festival to rave reviews, Universal and Rogue hid this picture till the night before opening day, and then kicked themselves when the finished product did in fact garner satisfactory notices. As I wrote yesterday, why the hell did they hide this from critics? Once again, if your movie is good (or at least gets the job done), why not let those who read reviews know that? MacGruber isn't great , but it has solid laughs and doesn't overstay its welcome. It's not nearly as ambitious or disciplined as Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, can't decide whether its lead character is a master spy or a bumbling idiot, and it doesn't use Val Kilmer nearly enough. But I digress, I guess the big mystery, why did Universal, Rogue, and Relativity move this one into the heart of summer (which implied that it was good) and then more or less hide the movie (which implied that it was bad)? With an R-rating, the marketing team pretty much had to hide most of the punchlines, but the material that was released to non-online sources made the film feel like something aimed at twelve-year old boys, whom of course could not technically buy tickets to said comedy. Regardless, the film was pretty cheap and I imagine it will find a cult audience on DVD.

In holdover news, Iron Man 2 fell 49% in weekend two, for a $26 million weekend and a $251 million total. As noted last weekend, the heavily-anticipated sequel will struggle to match the $317 million earned by the original. Overseas however, the second film has pretty much eclipsed the original's $266 million foreign grosses. It is not going to rule 2010 like many predicted, but Iron Man 2 will still likely top $700 million in worldwide grosses. Again, the question is whether that result is acceptable for a film like The Avengers, which will likely cost $300-400 million (even if director Joss Whedon is able to make that $300 million look like a billion bucks onscreen). Universal's Robin Hood held up well enough, dropping 48% in weekend two. With a current domestic take of $66.6 million after ten days, the film is actually Russell Crowe's fifth-biggest grosser, behind Master and Commander ($93 million), American Gangster ($130 million), A Beautiful Mind ($170 million), and Gladiator ($187 million). As expected, overseas currency is saving the day, and the $200 million+ picture has already amassed $192 million worldwide. It still cost way too much money, but Robin Hood has an outside shot of making a few bucks for the struggling Universal.

Summit Entertainment's Letters to Juliet dropped just 33% from last weekend, ending day ten with a respectable $27.3 million. As far as Summit Entertainment goes, the Amanda Seyfried vehicle is already their fifth-biggest grosser, behind Push ($31 million), Knowing ($79 million), and the two Twilight pictures ($192 million and $296 million respectively). Just Wright dropped a disconcerting (for a romantic comedy) 48%, in its second weekend with $14.6 million. It's not a good performance, but I have to presume that Fox Searchlight kept the budget low on this Queen Latifah vehicle. In other holdover news, Date Night crossed the $90 million mark, dropping just 23% in its seventh weekend. Assuming it can hold onto theaters over Memorial Day and the glut of B-level releases on June 4th (Splice, Get Him to the Greek, Marmaduke, and Killers), the Tina Fey/Steve Carell vehicle will certainly cross $100 million. A Nightmare On Elm Street has nearly crossed $60 million, meaning it could very well double its $32 million opening weekend. Nice work gang. Finally, some sad news: losing 869 of its 3D and IMAX screens to Shrek: The Final Chapter, How to Train Your Dragon plummeted 62% in its ninth weekend. While the film currently sits at $211 million, it will have to struggle to get that extra $4 million+ to surpass the $215 million gross of Kung Fu Panda. Of course, should Shrek IV collapse over Memorial Day weekend (not likely), the dragon epic may very well get some of its screens back, since both films are Dreamworks releases.

That's it for this weekend. Join us for Memorial Day weekend when Sex and the City 2 opens on Thursday and attempts to break the TV-sequels curse. Meanwhile, Friday brings the release of Disney's Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time, which attempts to break the video game-adaptation curse. Good luck to both.

Scott Mendelson


Kyle Leaman said...

Shrek's opening is a hard number to put into context. You did a great job with it.

I honestly feel like Shrek 3 (which I thought was just ok, but was fairly passively recieved by audienced and trounced by critics alongside the poor marketing campaign you brought up earlier laid the foundation for this opening. It's a shame too, because I found this Shrek to be very enjoyable and a pretty strong entry. Will you be reviewing this one? I am interested in what you thought of it

Scott Mendelson said...

I'm hoping to talk my daughter into letting me take her to a (2D) showing this afternoon following her nap. I didn't dislike Shrek 3, it was just a comparative comedown from the genuinely terrific Shrek and Shrek 2 (same thing with X-Men: the Last Stand). If I see Shrek IV, I'll at least comment on it in a future post.

TGT said...

I think your punometer is broken. First the Will E. Coyote debacle, and now you don't realise Shrek rhymes with a common PG friendly interjection. Yes, Shrek was marketed horribly, but that tagline wasn't one of the issues.

On the plus side, your post on the Megan Fox controversy was spot on. You always seem to be able to distill ridiculous fan and industry responses down to their underlying causes with ease.

Scott Mendelson said...

A few others pointed out my potential misunderstanding of the Shrek tagline, but I try not to change my stuff after the fact purely to make myself look smarter. Come what may, the PG-rated variation (which was likely the intended pun) never dawned on me.

Scott Mendelson said...

A few others pointed out my potential misunderstanding of the Shrek tagline, but I try not to change my stuff after the fact purely to make myself look smarter. Come what may, the PG-rated variation (which was likely the intended pun) never dawned on me.


Related Posts with Thumbnails