First look: 'Greek' is first among newbies but 'Shrek' is still on top [Updated]
Despite competition from a quartet of new films, "Shrek Forever After" stayed at No. 1 for the third weekend in a row, selling a studio-estimated $25.3 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada.
Of the rookies, comedy "Get Him to the Greek" performed best, opening to a pretty good $17.4 million. Distributor Universal Pictures and co-financiers Relativity Media and Spyglass Entertainment are hopeful that "Greek," which stars Jonah Hill, Russell Brand and Sean "Diddy" Combs, will hold on very well for the next few weeks, as is common for R-rated comedies. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which was also directed by Nicholas Stoller, opened to a similar $17.7 million in 2008 and ended up with a healthy final gross of $63.2 million.
"Greek" cost about $40 million to produce.
Lionsgate's "Killers," a big risk for the small studio, turned out to be a modest disappointment, opening to $16.1 million. Based on guidance provided to investors by the Santa Monica studio, that opening likely means that "Killers," an action comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl, will be a slight money loser.
Lionsgate spent $75 million to make the movie, but used tax incentives and international pre-sales to reduce its risk in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain, where it is distributing the picture, to about $40 million. Still, "Killers" is the most expensive movie that Lionsgate, which traditionally focuses on lower-cost genre films, has made to date.
"Killers" wasn't shown to critics before its release but was lambasted by them over the weekend, drawing overwhelmingly negative reviews.
Family film "Marmaduke" didn't bark too loud at the box office, opening to a modest $11.3 million. That's barely more than half what "Garfield," another animation/live-action hybrid based on a comic strip and released by 20th Century Fox, opened to in June of 2004. The movie cost Fox and New Regency about $50 million to make, meaning they will need very strong weekday performances as kids get out of school this month to avoid losing money.
Warner Bros.' unusual decision to open "Splice," a low-budget horror film, in the middle of summer box-office season didn't pay off. The well-reviewed picture opened to a soft $7.5 million, making it the latest in a string of disappointments for producer Joel Silver's Dark Castle Entertainment, which picked up the movie at the Sundance Film Festival.
[Updated at 11:51 a.m.: Those who did see "Splice" apparently hated it, giving the film an average grade of D, according to market research firm CinemaScore.]
"Shrek Forever After" was down only 42% on its third weekend, as it continues to benefit from strong buzz and decline at a slower pace than "Shrek the Third" in 2007. After its disappointing opening, however, the fourth and final installment in DreamWorks Animation's series is at a domestic total of $183 million, compared with $256 million for "Shrek the Third" at the same point three years ago.
Neither of last weekend's major new releases showed any signs of longevity. "Prince of Persia" dropped 54% after its weak debut and "Sex and the City 2" was down 59% after a disappointing start.
-- Ben Fritz
Top photo: A scene from "Shrek Forever After." Credit: DreamWorks Animation. Bottom photo: A scene from "Marmaduke." Credit: Joseph Lederer / 20th Century Fox