Movie fans came out in droves this weekend to see their favorite green ogre’s newest adventure as "Shrek the Third" easily captured the box office crown and broke the record for the biggest opening ever for an animated film.

That sent the super hero saga "Spider-Man 3" down to the runnerup spot but the overall marketplace once again beat last year’s levels for the third straight weekend giving the summer movie season an explosive start.

Executives at DreamWorks Animation and Paramount were drinking green champagne this weekend thanks to "Shrek the Third" which debuted to an astounding $122M, according to estimates, over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $122.9M since its early launch at 10pm on Thursday night in about 1,000 theaters. Invading 4,122 total locations, the PG-rated toon averaged a stunning $29,597 per cinema and surpassed the $108M bow of 2004’s "Shrek 2" which previously held the record for the biggest animated opening. That film, which was the first in history to break the 4,000-theater threshold, debuted on a Wednesday and captured $129M over its five-day premiere period. The next biggest toon opening is $70.5M for the 2004 Disney/Pixar vehicle "The Incredibles" which just shows how different the league that the "Shrek" franchise lives in is.

"Third" also set new opening weekend records for both DreamWorks and Paramount beating "Shrek 2" and "War of the Worlds" ($64.9M), respectively. The ogre sequel also generated the third best opening of all-time trailing only "Spider-Man 3"’s $151.1M from earlier this month and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’s" $135.6M from last July. That ranking should slip another spot next weekend after the new "Pirates" film sets sail.

The new ogre sequel grossed $907,000 on Thursday from night-before showings beginning at 10pm, hauled in $38.5M on Friday (its true opening day), surged 22% to $47M on Saturday, and is estimated to dip 22% on Sunday to $36.5M. "Shrek 2," which opened on the same exact weekend three years ago, also suffered a 22% Saturday-to-Sunday dip in its debut frame. The production budget on the new installment is estimated to be $160-170M.

Reuniting the voice talents of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and Antonio Banderas, "Shrek the Third" adds some new characters including a teen would-be king voiced by Justin Timberlake. The slender 92-minute film was not very well-liked by critics and earned the worst reviews for the franchise just as "Spider-Man 3" did a couple of weeks ago. However, moviegoers again disregarded the critics and came out for some early summer fun dropping some mighty big bags of cash at multiplexes nationwide. "Shrek" dominated the attention of ticket buyers and accounted for about 70% of all sales for the Top 20.

Studio research showed that Fiona’s hubby appealed to all audience segments becoming a true four-quadrant pic. Females made up 51% of the crowd and those over and under the age of 25 were evenly split. Teens, young adults, and families all came out in strong numbers. Those polled by CinemaScore gave the toon a B+ grade which is decent, but not spectacular. A fourth chapter of "Shrek" is already in development for a planned 2010 release.

Dropping 51% in its third weekend was two-time box office champ "Spider-Man 3" with an estimated $28.5M. Sony’s webslinger sequel flew to $281.9M (including Imax grosses) from North America and averaged $6,591 from a record high 4,324 theaters. After 17 days, the Venom pic shot up to number 28 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just ahead of "The Matrix Reloaded" which grossed $281.5M in 2003. Given its rate of erosion and upcoming competition from Captain Jack, the third webcrawler still looks on a course to conclude its domestic run with $340-350M.

"Spider-Man 3" continues to rank number one in most international territories and grossed $49.6M overseas this weekend pushing its offshore cume to a scorching $465M and the global gross to a towering $747M. The latest Peter Parker tale has now become the top-grossing "Spidey" film overseas surpassing the $418M for the first film in 2002 and the $410M of "Spider-Man 2" in 2004. The third chapter has really taken off internationally as overseas box office accounts for 62% of the global tally. The first two super hero installments saw about 52% of their worldwide groesses come from outside of North America.

Fox’s horror sequel "28 Weeks Later" dropped one spot to third place with an estimated $5.2M bringing the ten-day total to $18.6M. The well-reviewed virus thriller declined by 48% which is impressive for a fright flick. Still, "Weeks" looks to finish with about $30-32M or about one-third less than the $45.1M of 2003’s "28 Days Later."

Only scraps were left for the other films playing at multiplexes as the rest of the movies in the top ten attracted weekend ticket sales of less than $4M each. Three-time chart-topper "Disturbia" took in an estimated $3.7M, off only 22%, for a $71.3M cume for Paramount. The sleeper hit should find its way to around $80M.

Universal’s Jane FondaLindsay Lohan pic "Georgia Rule" dropped 48% to an estimated $3.5M in its second weekend pushing its ten-day total to a weak $12.6M. Look for a disappointing $20-22M final for the R-rated film which few have been showing interest in. New Line’s "Fracture" dipped just 17% to an estimated $2.5M putting the sum at $34.7M. A final tally of roughly $40M should result.

The Lionsgate comedy "Delta Farce" followed its dismal bow with a troubling 46% fall to an estimated $1.8M this weekend for a miniscule total of $6.1M in ten days. It will try to limp to a $10M overall gross. Following in eighth place was Buena Vista’s "The Invisible" with an estimated $1.3M, down 44%, putting the cume at $17.7M. The supernatural thriller will probably end up with about $21M. British import "Hot Fuzz" continued to have good legs dipping only 27% to an estimated $1.3M pushing the total to $21.1M. Focus will try to get to $25M.

Two very different films tied for tenth place with estimates of $1.1M a piece. Fox Searchlight enjoyed continued success with the expansion of the Keri Russell starrer "Waitress" which widened from 65 to 116 theaters for a solid $9,784 average serving up moviegoers in the top ten for the first time. That doubled the comedy’s cume to $2.2M. This Friday, "Waitress" will expand again to most markets across the country reaching over 500 theaters playing as an indie alternative to the mindless popcorn films of early summer. Paramount’s big-budget action flop "Next" fell 35% giving the Nicolas Cage actioner an embarrassing $16.6M to date. A $19M final seems likely.

Tumbling out of the top ten this weekend was Disney’s animated comedy "Meet the Robinsons" which fell a steep 71% thanks to the ogre’s arrival to an estimated $521,000. The G-rated toon has grossed $95.3M after its eighth weekend and may be headed for a $97M finish.

Meanwhile in just two theaters, Fox Searchlight saw a powerful debut for its musical romance "Once" which grossed an estimated $60,511 for a sizzling $30,256 per site. Showered with praise from critics, the R-rated film premieres in eleven new cities on Friday.

Yari Film Group had a mild debut for its ensemble drama "Even Money" which bowed to an estimated $26,013 from six playdates for a not-so-impressive $4,336 average.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $170.8M which was up 12% from last year when "The Da Vinci Code" opened at number one with $77.1M; and up 10% from 2005 when "Star Wars Episode III" debuted on top with $108.4M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Nope, not another "The Grudge." This one’s called "The Addicted," so you just know it’s something different. Er, actually, it’s based on 2002 Korean chiller called "Jungdok," so maybe it’s not. Good to see Michelle’s found herself a steady paycheck niche.

From Variety: "Sarah Michelle Gellar will topline supernatural thriller "Addicted," which the Yari Film Group is financing and producing with Vertigo and Spitfire. Film is loosely based on 2002 South Korean pic "Jungdok."

Joel Bergvall and Simon Sandquist, who helmed the acclaimed Swedish film "The Invisible," will direct from a screenplay by Michael Petroni. Story revolves around a woman whose husband and brother-in-law end up in a coma after a horrible accident. When the brother-in-law wakes up, he says he is her true husband."

Sounds fascinating.

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