This is it, folks.  The weekend we’ve all been waiting for.  The answers are finally going to be revealed to the world.  Is Donkey really the smoke monster?  Who will Fiona choose between Shrek and Puss in Boots?  Will Lord Farquaad make a surprise appearance at the last minute and take out everyone with sticks of dynamite lifted from the Black Rock?  All of this and more will finally be answered in the final installment, Shrek Forever After.

And, whether those answers are revealed or not, this new Shrek movie is, nonetheless, being touted as the last one, the end-all-be-all in the Shrek series, and it is sure to rake in some of that green to go with the lovable ogre’s complexion.

Big Openers

In 2001, the first Shrek made $42 million in its opening weekend.  Since then, the green ogre has been Mickey Mouse for DreamWorks Animation, acting as mascot for the perpetually-in-second-place studio.  Like clockwork, every three years hence, a new Shrek movie has hit theaters.  In 2004, Shrek 2 (cute and clever titles, evidently, weren’t invented until 2007), became the most successful film of the franchise, opening with $108 million and going on to make $441 million in domestic and $919 the world over.  2007’s Shrek the Third (See? Cute titles.) had a massive opening with $121 million, but poor word of mouth and the overall consensus that it was the absolute worst film of the series only allowed it to make $322 million domestically and just less than $800 million worldwide.  $800 million off a $160-million budget?  What a bomb.

So this brings us to 2010, with Shrek Forever After, what is being labeled as the final, Shrek film, hitting theaters.  While it is sure to work like gangbusters this weekend and in the weekends ahead, I don’t see it making as much as the second or third films.  The bad taste Shrek the Third left in everyone’s mouth hasn’t gone away, and there is very little chance this will be the most successful film in the series when all is said and done.  Despite this, the film is the first Shrek release to open in 3-D and IMAX, and this is sure to boost any numbers it would have garnered, anyway.  DreamWorks has been smart in their marketing of the film, making sure everyone knows the same characters they know and love are back and in claiming this will be the last film of the series.  We’ll see just how accurate that claim is when Sunday’s numbers roll in.  They also made a smart choice opening in the same spot as the first, three films, right in the middle of May when the Summer, movie season hasn’t hit its peak, yet, but we’ve already got our feet firmly planted in the sand.  All of these factor into an equation which results in big, big numbers for the film, even if they aren’t quite as high as the previous, two entries.

To get your donkey on like Donkey Kong, check out the Shrek Forever After trailer right here:

Also opening in wide release is MacGruber.  MacGruber!  I know.  You were doing it, too.  Admit it.  When you sit back and look at the SNL film, you begin to wonder just how much money it’s going to make.  There are a lot of factors riding against it.  It’s rated R.  The biggest name in the cast (unless you’re just an avid, SNL fan) is Ryan Phillippe.  It’s a first-time, feature film director.  The only thing this film has going for it is a hilarious, 10-second skit and the good buzz it has been receiving out of SXSW.  These positive reviews (our own, Brian Salisbury’s isn’t one of them, though) could be why Universal decided to push it back from its original, April release to the third weekend of the Summer season.  Or maybe Universal just needed to dump The Losers and they felt MacGruber would fare better in the Summer.  Either way you slice it, it’s coming this weekend.

Now to look at its potential numbers.  SNL hasn’t, exactly, been a grand breeding ground for film projects.  The most successful film to come out of it is still Wayne’s World, and, nearly 20 years later, the $121 million it pulled in is still looked upon as quite an accomplishment.  Wayne’s World made $18 million in its opening weekend, and inflation mixed with the fact that that was a February release versus a May release now makes some think MacGruber has a shot to top it.  I am one of them, and mixed with the fact that the market is void of a crazy, R-rated comedy makes me think this all the more.

To get yourself a little more familiar with MacGruber, check out this trailer.  It’s red band, so you know it’s good:

Familiarities

Even without the number one spot at its fingertips, Iron Man 2 is still sure to make decent numbers this third weekend of its release.  It dropped nearly 60% from its first weekend to its second, but don’t expect that level of decline to continue.  I do, however, like to think that, if any film is going to get hurt by the “Lost” finale airing pretty much all day Sunday, it’s going to be Iron Man 2.  Expect the film to have a reasonable drop, make around $25-30 million, and continue its trek towards just being within reach of the $300-million mark.  Unfortunately, unless a resurgence happens in the next month or two, or unless Paramount decides to re-release it late in the Summer, I don’t see Iron Man 2 getting over that hurdle.

A lot of bad buzz is coming out of Robin Hood‘s opening weekend.  Of course, along with the bad buzz comes all the talk on the other side of the coin, people who build it up to balance the debate out as well as people who are going to be intrigued to see it just to see if it is as bad as many are saying it is.  Spoiler alert: it is, but the belief that no buzz is bad buzz will keep its drop at under 55%.  That’s kind of been the average on Ridley Scott’s films in the past, five years, what some are calling the lag in the film maker’s career.  All of this adds up to the very real possibility that, in 2010, a Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe film will make less in its second weekend than an SNL film will make in its first.

Little Hitters

The biggest, little release this weekend is a documentary called Racing Dreams about three kids competing in the World Karting Association’s National Pavement Series.  It’s kind of a niche film, and one that’s only seeing its way to 31 screens across the US.  Hanover House is doing something smart with the film’s release, though, opening it this weekend in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and a number of other states across the South, states where NASCAR is prevalent and the people who see the film will, actually, appreciate it.  Not sure what that will do for the film’s numbers.  It doesn’t open in New York or LA until June.

Also in the world of the limited release, Holy Rollers is opening in New York and LA (check out Neil’s rather negative Sundance review here); as does the Michael Douglas-starring Solitary Man; and After the Cup: Sons of Sakhnin United, a documentary about a soccer team in Israel.  The documentary 180 South opens in the bustling markets of Minneapolis and Seattle; and Kites, a love story set in the deserts of Mexico, opens across Canada.

Here’s how the top 10 is shaping up this weekend:

  1. Shrek Forever After – $101m NEW
  2. Iron Man 2 – $26.8m (-48.4%)
  3. MacGruber – $19.5m NEW
  4. Robin Hood – $17m (-52.6%)
  5. Letters to Juliet $7.4m (-45%)
  6. Just Wright – $3.9m (-51.4%)
  7. How to Train Your Dragon $2.6m (-46.9%)
  8. Date Night $2.4m (-35.5%)
  9. A Nightmare on Elm Street $2.3m (-49.8%)
  10. The Back-Up Plan $1.1m (-50.4%)

Overall Glance

Last weekend’s top 10 films pulled in $129.4 million, a lower, weekend total than the weekend before and a slight drop from the same weekend in 2009.  This weekend, however, looks to blow last weekend out of the water, with expectations in the $180-185m range, a28-30% increase.

This time last year, the new films were Night at the Museum II, Terminator Salvation, and Dance Flick, none of which dropped A-bombs on the box office world.  In fact, the weekend takes for the top two films last year ($54m for Museum and $42m for Terminator) combined won’t top Shrek Forever After.

Of course, in a perfect world, there will be zero tickets sold on Sunday evening, as the entire country should be glued to its collective TV set watching to see who makes it off the island and what will be left of the smoke monster.  However, we aren’t in a perfect world, and the “Lost” finale probably won’t make much of a dent in the likes of Puss in Boots and Dieter Von Cunth.  Actually, now that I think of it, this is a pretty racy weekend for movies.

We’ll be back on Sunday to go over the numbers.


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