Shrek Forever Afterdominated the North American box office this weekend but its $71.2m opening was well short of opening takes for the two previous installments of the animated franchise.

The fourth film in the DreamWorks Animation series, once again with Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy supplying the voices of green ogre Shrek and his friends, opened wider - 4,359 locations - than any of its predecessors, and in the same mid-May slot. And it should have got an extra boost from being the first franchise entry in 3D.

However the weekend estimate from distributor Paramount (representing a per-location average of $16,345) ranks behind the $121.6m opening achieved by Shrek The Third in 2007 and the $108m taken by Shrek 2 in 2004 (the former went on to gross $322.7m domestically and the latter $441.2m). The original Shrek opened with $42.3m in 2001, and went on to gross $267.7m.

The PG-rated fourth installment, which got mixed reviews, appears to have been a victim of franchise fatigue, though Paramount and DreamWorks Animation may be hoping for the kind of strong holdover business that has kept their How to Train Your Dragon going strong for nine weeks.

Universal’s R-rated action comedy MacGruber opened poorly in sixth place with an estimated $4.1m from 2,551 locations (for a $1,607 average). Produced by Relativity Media, the modestly budgeted spoof, starring Saturday Night Live’s Will Forte and Kristen Wiig, was better received by critics than audiences.

Bollywood-style romantic drama Kites had a surprisingly strong debut, taking an estimated $1m from 208 locations (for a $4,976 average) and making it into the national top ten. The Reliance Big film, starring Hrithik Roshan and Barbara Mori and directed by Anurag Basu, was liked by critics and marketed to both Asian and Latino audiences.

Reliance is reportedly planning to launch a US ‘re-mix’ of Kites, overseen by director Brett Ratner, next weekend.

Among holdover releases, Universal’s Robin Hood declined by a respectable 48% in its second weekend to gross an estimated $18.7m from 3,505 locations (average - $5,335), for a $66.1m domestic total to date.

And Summit’s Letters to Juliet slipped by only 33% in its second weekend, taking an estimated $4.2m from 1,831 locations (average - $3,059), for a total of $27.4m.

Wide releases for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend are: Disney’s fantasy adventure Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton starring and Mike Newell directing; and, opening on Thursday, Warner/New Line’s romantic comedy Sex And The City 2, with Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall returning for writer-director Michael Patrick King.


Estimated Top 10 North America May 21-23 2010

Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (-) Shrek Forever After (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) PPI $71.2m -

2 (1) Iron Man 2 (Marvel/Paramount) PPI $26.6m $251.3m

3 (2) Robin Hood (Universal) UPI $18.7m $66.1m

4 (3) Letters To Juliet (Summit) Summit Int’l $9.1m $27.4m

5 (4) Just Wright (Fox Searchlight) Fox Int’l $4.2m $14.6m

6 (-) MacGruber (Universal) UPI $4.1m -

7 (7) Date Night (Fox) Fox Int’l $2.8m $90.7m

8 (6) A Nightmare On Elm Street (Warner Bros) WBPI $2.3m $59.9m

9 (5) How To Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) PPI $1.8m $210.9m

10 (-) Kites (Reliance Big) Reliance Big $1m -