“Shrek Forever Ever” threepeats, “Get Him to the Greek” wins silver amid box office malaise

Shrek Forever AfterThe numbers are out early this morning via Box Office Mojo and the Numbers, so I’m going to rush out the weekend box office news whilst I have time. Basically, it’s been a fairly slow couple of weekends with disappointing performances for movies like “Shrek Forever After,”  and, to a greater extent, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and “Sex and the City 2” — though I think most any sensible person could have told the studios these movies, suffering from overused or tired or just kind of lame concepts, never had much mega-blockbuster potential. Let’s see how things go when “Inception,” “Toy Story 3,” and, maybe, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” come out.

Anyhow, the news wasn’t all bad. The final “Shrek” production continues to capitalize on the fact that it’s been better received than the prior film in the hyper-extended series. It’s showing reasonable legs, earning an estimated $25.3 million for Dreamworks/Paramount in its third week and dropping a lower-than-average 41.6%.

Some seem to think it’s a disappointment, but “Get Him to the Greek” sure looks like a moderate success to me. It broke out from a pack of four new releases, two of which were supposed to earn more money than it, and earned a couple million more than some of the gurus were predicting on Thursday, an estimated $17.4 million. I guess the fact that some critics mentioned “The Hangover” in their reviews kind of ginned up expectations, but sleeper successes like that have their own surprising logic and always come out of left field. Universal needs a lot more than this to really break it’s losing streak, but it’s not a horrid start.

Russell Brand and Jonah Hill in

Nikki Finke, for some reason, expected “Greek” to make more than the movie it’s spun off from, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” However, the fact of the matter is that that film had more of an almost classical screwball romantic comedy premise that appeals to a wider audience of both men and women when done well, with more traditionally appealing leads — Jason Segal’s  unpretty but brilliant nude scenes notwithstanding. Even if Russell Brand and Jonah Hill were in the earlier film in scene-stealing supporting roles, the Mutt and Jeff twosome is still not all that widely known and a fairly unusual pairing for a mass audience movie in our time. Moreover, the $40 million budget is modest these days, making the very home-video friendly, Judd Apatow-produced, “Greek” a very probable nice earner over the long haul.

Moving on, things get worse. “Killers,” starring my least favorite male actor in the universe and Kathryn Heigl, came in third with an estimate of $16.1 million. With a budget of $75 million, this is obviously the opposite of a  homerun for Lionsgate. Despite being a family film, the CGI-aided talking dog movie, “Marmaduke”, had at least a certain degree of failure pretty much written all over it, coming in at sixth place with an opening weekend estimate of $11.3 million for Fox. Not quite in the basement, but with a $50 million budget and no reason to expect any kind of legs, this one looks (I cannot resist) like a bit of a dog.

Kim Cattrall in As for last week’s aforementioned debuts, it wasn’t pretty. Both Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and, more so, Fox’s widely reviled “Sex and the City 2” showed no legs this week, dropping by worse than average 54% and 59% respectively, and coming in fourth and fifth with $13.9 and $12.65 million respectively.

Though Nikki Finke and others are trumpeting the tale of how it even got a theatrical release at all, the creepy science-fiction thriller “Splice” pretty much died with $7.45 million estimated for Warners, which is keeping the project at arms length. It apparently did badly on Cinemascore, which I guess reflects my hunch that the modern blood-and-gore-thirsty, trauma-loving, horror audience was the wrong group to pitch the movie too, especially given its potentially misleading R-rating (as much for sexuality and language as “sci-fi violence”).  It should have been sold as more of an adult science fiction thriller and probably started out with more of a limited release. Instead, they promised the audience a chili-bacon cheeseburger and gave them Fettuccine Alfredo. Well, it only cost $30 million, it has its fans, and there’s always DVD/Blu-Ray.

  

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“Shrek Forever After” to live up to its name?

Shrek Forever After Quite possibly, if three weeks constitutes “forever.” The final installment of the CGI animation series was considered a fairly major disappointment in its first week, earning a relatively anemic amount just under $71 million, tens of millions less than prior entries. However,  “Shrek Forever After” has shown decent staying power, indicating that the relatively strong reviews this time around might be reflective of something that actually matters to audiences. If we are to believe jolly Carl DiOrio, it is once again the probable box office champion. Indeed, DiOrio expects the grosses to be between $25 and $30 million, which could easily double almost all of the four, count ’em, four major new releases coming out this week, assuming his lowish guesses for the other films are right.

To a lesser extent, the second week of the widely hated “Sex and the City 2” is also a contender for third place according to DiOrio — in his video, he doesn’t mention it in writing — but the Numbers see things quite a bit differently. I’d personally expect a bigger than average drop-off from it’s unimpressive debut simply because I get the feeling that hardly anyone liked it much, perhaps not even the franchise’s biggest fans.

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“Sex and the City 2” insufficiently pleasured at the box office; the troll scores

Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Noth in The long Memorial Day weekend is not quite half over but it doesn’t look like a barn-burner for anyone. Looking at the traditional three days which are used to cover the more competitive side of box office results, it’s looking like Carrie Bradshaw and the other women of “Sex and the City 2” have been stood up by a significant share of the expected audience, leaving “Shrek Forever After” the box office leader.

The $60 million guessed at for the entire “five day frame” by jolly Carl DiOrio on Thursday may still be possible” but it’s start to look like it’ll be lucky to hit even that modest number. (The first film in the series earned $57 million in its initial three-day frame.) In any case,everyone really did seem to expect the film to hit #1 and that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. The present weekend estimate for Warners’ “Sex” according to Box Office Mojo is $32.125 million while the final Shrek film took in $43.345 million.

The pleasant surprise for Dreamworks/Paramount here is that their animated comedy about the world famous fairy tale troll experienced a better than average 38% percent drop from it’s opening — which was a big let down compared to previous films at just under $71 million, but far from disastrous. This may be more evidence that telling a decent story actually counts for something.

Shrek Forever After

The consensus on this “Shrek” is that it’s nothing great (Mike Fleming termed the reviews “mediogre” <yuck, yuck>), but a relatively decent ending to the series with some considering it one of the better entries in the four picture series, so word-of-mouth may be giving it a small boost. There’s also the factor of it in being in nearly a thousand more theaters than the other films and many of those being 3-D with higher ticket prices. The public may be starting to tire of those prices, but enough of them appear to still be willing to pay the added freight to keep the troll on top.

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Will “Sex and the City 2” achieve the big $ on Memorial Day?

And will we writers run out of double entendres in describing whether or not the latest adventures of Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and friends enjoys a satisfactory, long-lasting ticket-buying performance from their ardent audience or will it be just a case of “slam-bang-opening-weekend’s-over-ma’am?” Nope. Nor will the bad reviews “Sex and the City 2” has been getting significantly dampen the ardor of ticket buyers.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Noth in

In fact, the film is already doing rather well, as it opened early to get a jump on the long Memorial Day weekend, making $3 million on Wednesday night/Thursday morning midnight shows for the R-rated comedy from Warner Brothers. Both jolly Carl DiOrio and Anne Thompson’s b.o. guy, Anthony D’Alessandro, are bullish. Jolly Carl is talking about $60 million. I have no clue except that every “Sex and the City” fan will want to see it — once, anyway.

Nevertheless, as someone who managed to avoid the original show almost completely, it is a bit of shock to see this kind of vituperation directed against a property that was once a well-reviewed award-winner. I wasn’t too surprised when the first film got mixed reviews, since the show did have more than it’s share of detractors, but the 14% “fresh” rating from Rotten Tomatoes critics as a whole, and devastating 7% from 26 “top critics” so far is a bit of a movie cold shower. The bad reviews even inspired a bottom 10 list at Salon. Matt Zoeller Seitz, like our own Jason Zingale, notes the film’s lengthy sequence in Abu Dabi — which he terms “product placement for a country” (even though it was shot elsewhere) and titles his review: “Ladies and Gentleman, THIS is Why They hate us.” That’s about as positive as his review gets. He’s almost loving compared to the brilliant review by Lindy West:

SATC2 takes everything that I hold dear as a woman and as a human—working hard, contributing to society, not being an entitled cunt like it’s my job—and rapes it to death with a stiletto that costs more than my car. It is 146 minutes long, which means that I entered the theater in the bloom of youth and emerged with a family of field mice living in my long, white mustache.

That one of the nicer parts. I suggest, no, I implore that you read every word.

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Weekend box office: “Shrek Forever After” #1 with diminishing returns; “MacGruber” explodes, but in the bad way

Shrek Forever AfterThe fourth and, I’m guessing, probably final theatrical bow for the soulful green troll with the Scottish accent grossed an estimated $71.25 million this weekend for Dreamworks and Paramount, according to the mighty Box Office Mojo chart. That’s a lot more than enough to make “Shrek Forever After” the top movie in the country this week, and a substantial take for any movie. It is, however, significantly below the $121.6 that the widely unloved last entry in the series earned on its opening weekend back in 2007 — without the benefit of inflated 3-D ticket prices.

It’s even further below the  numbers that were being bandied about by writers, if not, studios, earlier on. I mentioned last time that Carl DiOrio thought the film could hit $100 million, but failed to note the breakdown at the Numbers. It said that while “analysts” (whoever they may be) were suggesting a $90-$95 million opening, the studio was pimping a more modest $80 million while trying to diminish expectations. They should have diminished them a little bit more.

The week’s other major opener, “MacGruber,” proved my hunches to be at least as wrong as DiOrio’s. While steering clear to some extent of the $15-20 million guess at the Numbers, I doubted the single-digit numbers that DiOrio mentioned. As the singer of the obscure Difford and Tilbrook tune says, let’s face it, I’m wrong again. As it turns out, even DiOrio’s lowest figures weren’t low enough. The incompetent MacGyver-like bomb diffuser only earned a fairly pathetic $4.1 million in 2,551 theaters for the #6 spot. I think it’s safe to say that the poor reputation of SNL-derived films clearly preceded this one, which actually has garnered reviews that are a bit better than most other films in this long-running franchise.

Grim faced Ryan Phillipe, Will Forte, and Kristen Wiig face the b.o. music

Still, considering that most SNL sketches, even at their best, never seem to sustain until the end of the bit, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the movies derived from them have a hard time holding attention through feature-length running times. If “MacGruber” suffered from a bit of movie guilt-by-association, it’s just too bad for anyone who was hoping for a quick A-list status for the off-kilter Will Forte — a performer who I think would fit in really nicely in a David Lynch movie. (I mean that as a compliment, I think.) On the other hand, every time I check Rotten Tomatoes, even it’s now-meh-to-bad (once kind of okay and maybe even almost good) critical numbers keep dropping, with “Top Critics” being a bit more brutal.

The #2 and #3 spots, respectively, were held by “Iron Man 2” with an estimate of $26.6 million for Marvel and Paramount, and “Robin Hood” with $18.7 million estimated for long suffering Universal. Probably helped by weak competition, both movies managed to keep their weekly drop to just under 50%. Still, I think it’s safe to call the $200 million “Robin Hood” a disappointment that won’t do much for the careers of either Russell Crowe or Ridley Scott, not that they’re in any danger of obscurity just yet.

A paucity of movies for women of any age probably also helped grow some legs for the #4 cross-generational rom-com, “Letters to Juliet,” which dropped only by 32.8% and earned a solid $9.1 million for the probably fairly modestly budgeted film. That should help young Amanda Seyfried cement her growing credibility as a box office draw, at least for young-female-skewing films and even if her most challenging film role so far has been ignored. Of course, that lack of female-friendly major draws will change next week with the arrival of “Sex and the City 2.”

Jesse Eisenberg is probably okay for the JewsOn the limited release circuit, it was actually a pretty good weekend for Jesse Eisenberg and the talented young actor’s efforts to prove he’s something other than a Jewish knock-off of Michael Cera. His high-concept drama with mixed reviews, “Holy Rollers,” performed fairly strongly in its opening weekend on three screens with a solid per screen average of $13,003 from an audience that probably discussed after the film whether the drama about a drug-running Hasid was good or bad for the Jews. Doing even better was the all-star comedy, “Solitary Man,” top-lined by Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito (let’s not talk about how long it’s been since “Romancing the Stone” and ‘The War of the Roses”),” and also featuring mid twenty-something Eisenberg. On the strength of strong reviews and the cast, it managed an estimated $22,250 on four screens. As usual, Peter Knegt at Indiewire has the details.

  

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