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First Look: 'Shrek' falls short on fourth go-round while 'MacGruber' bombs

May 23, 2010 |  9:20 am

ShrekForever "Shrek" may have overstayed his welcome on the big screen.

"Shrek Forever After," the fourth and final installment in the most successful animated series of all time, sold $71.3 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Paramount Pictures.

That's a 41% drop from the $121.6-million debut of "Shrek the Third" on the same weekend in 2007 and significantly below even the most conservative pre-release estimates for the new film's opening weekend.

The decline in revenue significantly understates the drop in attendance, however, as "Forever After" is the first "Shrek" movie to play in digital 3-D, which means the majority of tickets carried a surcharge of about $3 on top of normal price inflation over the last three years.

Still, "Shrek Forever After," which cost DreamWorks Animation about $165 million to produce, will probably hold on well in the coming weeks and have a relatively strong performance over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, as it will be the only family film and only 3-D film in theaters. Moviegoers who saw the new "Shrek" movie gave it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore, up from a B+ for the third installment, which means word-of-mouth should be very healthy.

But it's unlikely to end up a blockbuster on the same scale as "Shrek the Third," which had a final domestic gross of $323 million, or 2004's "Shrek 2," which finished its run with $422 million.

Overseas could be a different story. Though "Shrek Forever After" won't open in most major foreign countries until after the World Cup, the film debuted in Russia this weekend to a huge $20 million. That's the most successful opening ever in the country, slightly ahead of last year's "Avatar." If "Shrek Forever After" ends up anywhere close to the nearly $500 million that its two predecessors grossed overseas, it will still be very profitable for DreamWorks.

MacGruber "MacGruber," a parody of the 1980s series "MacGyver," set a new low in the undistinguished commercial history of movies based on "Saturday Night Live" skits. The inexpensive Rogue Pictures film, which was distributed by Universal Pictures, opened to a dismal $4.1 million.

That's the smallest opening ever for an "SNL" movie in wide release, below even the opening of "The Blues Brothers" in 1980 when ticket prices were a fraction of what they are today. It's also the worst debut for any movie in wide release so far in 2010.

Ticket sales for "Robin Hood" dropped a so-so 48% after the soft start for the big-budget adventure starring Russell Crowe, putting it at $18.7 million. The romantic "Letters to Juliet" starring Amanda Seyfried held on well, however, falling only 33% to $9.1 million.

Both movies came in behind "Iron Man 2," which saw ticket sales fall 49% on its third weekend to $26.6 million, bringing its total domestic gross so far to a very strong $251.3 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Related:

"Movie Projector" for "Shrek Forever After"

Times' box office coverage

Times' review of "Shrek Forever After"

Times' review of "MacGruber"

Top photo: A scene from "Shrek Forever After." Credit: DreamWorks Animation. Bottom photo, from left: Ryan Phillippe, Will Forte and Kristen Wiig in "MacGruber." Credit: Greg Peters / Rogue Pictures

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