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'Shrek 2' success to spawn more sequels
Updated: 2004-05-25 16:56

Record-breaking "Shrek 2" cast a bigger box-office spell than first imagined, convincing distributor that even grumpy green ogres can live happily after -- at least for two more sequels.

Newlyweds Shrek, voiced by Mike Myers, and Princess Fiona, voiced by Cameron Diaz, come home from their honeymoon and are greeted by Donkey, voiced by Eddie Murphy, in a scene from the new film 'Shrek 2.' The film opens in the United States May 19, 2004. [Reuters]
Opening in a record 4,163 theaters last Wednesday, the computer-animated storybook satire posted $129 million in ticket sales during its first five days across North America, the most ever for a mid-week release.

The previous five-day record for a Wednesday opening was set in December by "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," which grossed $124.1 million through its first Sunday.

For the three days beginning Friday, the traditional start of the weekend box office, "Shrek 2" generated $108 million, making it the second-biggest opening ever behind the $114.8 million release of "Spider-Man" in May of 2002.

"That's better than anyone could have anticipated, even in our wildest dreams," Jim Tharp, DreamWorks president of domestic theatrical distribution, told Reuters as final weekend figures were issued on Monday showing higher receipts than were initially reported.

A scene from the film "Shrek 1" [file photo]

The head of DreamWorks animation, Ann Daly, said that with the success of "Shrek 2," the studio would move ahead, one at a time, with plans for a third and fourth installment.

"It wasn't really advisable to start working on three and four until we knew that we actually had something in two, and certainly this weekend confirmed that we do," she said.

Daly said DreamWorks was in final talks with the principal voice actors to return, including Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz as the newlywed green ogres with horn-shaped ears, Eddie Murphy as the talking Donkey, and Antonio Banderas as the swashbuckling Puss in Boots.

"Shrek 2" also set a new benchmark as the biggest animated debut of all time, topping the $70 million bow of last year's undersea adventure "Finding Nemo," and marks the strongest 2004 opening so far, surpassing the $89.3 million posted by Mel Gibson (news)'s "The Passion of the Christ" in February.

"Shrek 2" clearly benefited from the wild popularity of DreamWorks' original fairy tale farce, which opened with more than $42 million in May 2001 and went on to gross $267.7 million in domestic theaters alone.

Paul Dergarabedian, head of box office tracking service Exhibitor Relations, said the Wednesday opening of "Shrek 2" also worked to the film's advantage, giving it two days of free press and positive word of mouth heading into the weekend. The movie's broad demographic appeal was an additional factor.

"This was really the first family movie of the summer, and there was definitely a pent-up demand. You can see that reflected in these grosses," Dergarabedian said. "It's not just a kids' movie: it's a movie for everyone."

Dergarabedian predicted that "Shrek 2" would hold up well next weekend as it competes for Memorial Day weekend business against the global warming disaster epic "The Day After Tomorrow," hip-hop comedy "Soul Plane" and the female-driven comedy romance "Raising Helen."

The success of the CGI-animated "Shrek 2" follows the box office disappointments of two recent hand-drawn cartoons released by DreamWorks -- last year's "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" and 2002's "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron."

Daly said DreamWorks' animation division is currently focused on two upcoming projects, "Shark Tale," due for an October release, and the new TV series, "Father of the Pride," about lions who perform in Siegfried and Roy's famed Las Vegas act, which debuts this fall on NBC.

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