Latest ‘Shrek’ film may open below $100-million mark

The big-screen’s most famous ogre might have good reason to be grumpy this weekend.

“Shrek Forever After,” the fourth and purportedly final installment of DreamWorks Animation’s money-minting series, could be the first since the original “Shrek” in 2001 to open to less than $100 million.

People who have seen pre-release audience surveys say the CGI animated sequel -- which features the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy -- will probably sell about $90 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada this weekend.

“Shrek the Third” opened in 2007 to $122 million, and “Shrek 2" bowed in 2004 with $108 million. Both also premiered the weekend before Memorial Day.


The decline in expected opening weekend revenue for the fourth installment understates the degree to which interest in the fantasy series appears to have waned. “Forever After” is the first “Shrek” movie to play in 3-D, meaning tickets in the majority of theaters will carry a surcharge of $3 on top of normal ticket price inflation over the last several years.

“Shrek” has so far been DreamWorks Animation’s most lucrative franchise. Since the original was released in 2001, the studio has launched other hits -- including “Madagascar,” “Kung Fu Panda” and March’s “How to Train Your Dragon” -- though none has been as big as the snappy take on classic fairy tales. DreamWorks is working on a “Shrek” spin-off, “Puss in Boots,” for 2011.

Executives at Paramount Pictures, which distributes DreamWorks Animation movies, are hopeful that “Shrek Forever After” will play well for the next several weeks because no other family film opens until Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 3" on June 18. The studio thinks the movie will ultimately gross at least as much in the U.S. and Canada as “Shrek the Third,” which finished with $323 million.

DreamWorks Animation stock has fallen 4% this week as word has spread on Wall Street about the movie’s expected opening.

Even if it comes in slightly below what tracking polls indicate, however, “Shrek Forever After” is certain to have the third biggest domestic opening of all time for an animated film, behind its two predecessors, not accounting for ticket price inflation.

Paramount is also expecting that, like the last two “Shrek” movies, “Forever After” will make close to $500 million overseas. Although it is opening in nine countries, including Russia, this week, most moviegoers abroad won’t see the film until late June or July, after the World Cup ends.

The only other movie opening domestically this weekend is “MacGruber,” based on the “Saturday Night Live” skit that parodies the 1980s television show “MacGyver.” Financed by Relativity Media’s Rogue Pictures and distributed by Universal Pictures, the low-cost comedy is expected to open to about $10 million.

Also notable this weekend will be the performance of “Robin Hood.” Universal and Relativity’s big-budget movie starring Russell Crowe opened to a soft $36 million, but because it appealed primarily to adults, who often don’t come out on a film’s first weekend, it could decline less than 50% on its second weekend.