The oiled kernels are popping. The ticket taker is waiting. The stadium seating is begging to be pummeled by rumps. Everything is falling into place for another monster weekend at the corner multiplex, and no one can be happier than DreamWorks Animation
Shrek the Third opens today, and expectations run high. The first two films grossed a whopping $1.4 billion worldwide, but the second installment -- 2004's Shrek 2 -- nearly doubled the original's box office take.
The sequel wound up moving $920.7 million worth of tickets globally. That is enough to make it the highest-grossing animated film of all time, though if you adjust for inflation you'll find that six classic Disney
Few are expecting Shrek the Third to top the last one, though DreamWorks Animation would love to count on a "can't miss" franchise that it knows it can tap for a pot of gold every three years.
Seeing green in more than just ogres
Everything seems to be in place for a strong opening. Box Office Mojo is projecting that the film will debut in 4,122 screens around the country over the weekend. That is a few steamrolled multiplexes less than the 4,163 screens that Shrek 2 debuted in, but that is more than offset by ticket price hikes over the past three years.
It would actually be a shock to see the film ring up less than the $108.1 million domestic opening weekend that Shrek 2 generated, especially after Sony's
But celluloid battles aren't sprints. They're marathons. Movies with legs are the ones that enjoy long cinematic lives, claiming even more screens over the first few weeks.
This is where you start to worry, if you're DreamWorks Animation. There's a lot of eagerly anticipated product being projected between the velvet curtains this summer. Shrek the Third has exactly six days to feast on Jujyfruits before Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End washes ashore on the adjacent screen.
It doesn't get any easier after that. June is loaded with crowd magnets like Ocean's Thirteen and Evan Almighty, as well as fresh installments in the Die Hard and Fantastic 4 franchises. Those films are aiming for older audiences, but that's not really the point. There are a finite number of theater screens out there, and these likely blockbusters will eat into Shrek the Third's watch unless the green ogre keeps people in the seats.
And that is before we even consider the early July deluge of Transformers and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, if Shrek the Third should be lucky enough to remain relevant at that point.
Perhaps more disconcerting to DreamWorks Animation is that June also has a pair of highly promoted computer-animated films on tap. Sony's Surf's Up, about surfing penguins, and Disney's Ratatouille, about a rat who wants to become a chef, will eat away at the inked entertainment dollar. Ratatouille opens at the end of the month, but it's the second Pixar release to come out since Pixar became a wholly owned Disney subsidiary. The Disney-Pixar project Cars was last year's top-grossing animated flick.
Smelling a rat
I'm with you. The premise of a rat with visions of becoming a great Parisian chef doesn't seem like an easy sell. Fresh memories of rodents scurrying about a New York City KFC/Taco Bell restaurant earlier this year aren't helping either.
However, Disney-Pixar is going all out to warm audiences over, including streaming a nine-minute clip of the film -- actually two related segments that combine for nine minutes -- on Yahoo! Movies. It looks stunning, by the way.
If it's any consolation, Ratatouille won't open for another six weeks. Surf's Up opens in just three weeks, but Shrek the Third should be able to take on those surfing penguins.
Too many trailers and not enough featured attractions
The cluttered release slate will be a tough test for DreamWorks Animation, but the theater industry is loving every minute of it. The pipeline of potential blockbusters helped open up the IPO market for Cinemark
The country's third-largest chain pulled off its offering, despite having lost money in two of the last three years. Digital advertiser for the multiplex industry National CineMedia
It's not a perfect climate. AMC opted to postpone its IPO this month. However, everything is in place to make this a summer worth remembering for theater operators. The oiled kernels are popping. The ticket taker is waiting. The stadium seating is beg--
Wait a minute. You've read that already. The reel is repeating, making this the ideal time to head out of the multiplex, no matter how much green the green ogre is making.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a sucker for quality animation. Yes, he owns shares of Disney and DreamWorks Animation. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.