The DreamWorks Animation CG outing becomes the third biggest domestic opener of all time, behind only this month's Spider-Man 3 and last year's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
Distributed by Paramount, the third installment in the massively successful franchise about the big green ogre and his friends opened in 4,122 theatres, for a per-theatre average of $29,597. When limited Thursday night showings are included the film's estimated box office total becomes $122.9m.
Shrek 2 opened in a similar mid-May slot in 2004 and grossed $108m over its first weekend from 4,163 screens (thanks to a Wednesday opening it ended the weekend with $128.9m). It went on to take $441.2m domestically and $920.7m worldwide.
Whether the third outing - in which Justin Timberlake joins the voice cast led by Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas, and Chris Miller takes over as director - can beat those totals will depend on how well it stands up to competition from potential record breaker Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, which opens for the coming holiday weekend.
Shrek The Third withstood competition from the two-week-old Spider-Man 3 better than expected. Some pundits thought Spidey would entrap some of Shrek's audience, but the DreamWorks offering, which got mixed reviews, benefited from its short running time and ultra-wide release (though it also suffered from the fact that many tickets were sold to children at reduced prices).
After falling 62% last weekend, Sony's Spider-Man 3 dropped 51% in its third weekend, taking an estimated $28.5m from 4,324 theatres, for an average of $6,591 and a total to date of $281.9m.
Fox's 28 Weeks Later, which opened behind Spider-Man 3 last weekend, dropped a reasonable 47% to $5.15m from 2,305 theatres (average - $2,234), for a total of $18.6m.
Hanging on to fourth place on the chart in its sixth weekend, Paramount's Disturbia, also from DreamWorks, had another strong holdover, sliding only 22% to $3.7m from 2,547 theatres (average - $1,443). The thriller has now racked up a domestic total of $71.3m.
Universal's Georgia Rule, which opened last week behind 28 Weeks, fell 48% to $3.5m from 2,531 theatres (average - $1,380), for a $12.6m total.
New Line's Fracture was the top ten's second sturdy thriller, sliding 17% to $2.5m from 1,607 theatres (average - $1,531) for a $34.7m total.
Lionsgate's Delta Farce, the third of last week's new releases, was off 46% to $1.8m from 1,931 theatres (average - $953). The broad comedy's total went to $6.1m.
In the remainder of the top ten, Focus Features' British comedy Hot Fuzz was off only 27% in its fifth week, taking an estimated $1.2m from 973 screens (average - $1,290) for a $21.1m total to date.
Fox Searchlight's promising comedy Waitress, written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly and starring Keri Russell, entered the top ten with a 73% third-week jump to $1.1m after almost doubling its theatre count to 116. Its $9,784 average was the second highest among the top ten and pushed the film's total to $2.2m.
Next weekend's wide releases are: Buena Vista's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, third installment in the massively successful family adventure series, with Chow Yun Fat joining cast regulars Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush, and Gore Verbinski again directing; and Lionsgate horror thriller Bug, with William Friedkin directing Ashley Judd.
Estimated Top 10 North America May 18-20, 2007
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date
1 (-) Shrek The Third (Paramount) PPI $122m -
2 (1) Spider-Man 3 (Sony) SPRI $28.5m $281.9m
3 (2) 28 Weeks Later (Fox) Fox Intl $5.15m $18.6m
4 (4) Disturbia (Paramount) PPI $3.7m $71.3m
5 (3) Georgia Rule (Universal) Morgan Creek Intl $3.5m $12.6m
6 (6) Fracture (New Line) NLI $2.5m $34.7m
7 (5) Delta Farce (Lionsgate) Lionsgate $1.8m $6.1m
8 (7) The Invisible (Buena Vista) BVI $1.3m $17.7m
9 (10) Hot Fuzz (Rogue Pictures) UPI $1.2m $21.1m
10 (-) Waitress (Fox Searchlight) Fox Intl $1.1m $2.2m