Ogre and Out for Summer Box Office
The Scottish-braying green ogre of Shrek 2 was the monster of the summer box office, scaring up $436.5 million to help lead Hollywood to a record seasonal take of nearly $4 billion, estimates from the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co. showed.
“For the most part, all the surprises of the summer were a matter of degree,” says box-office expert Brandon Gray. “With Shrek 2, [you knew] it was a blockbuster going in, but it just did better than anyone could have expected.”
A sequel to 2001’s Shrek, no slouch itself with $268 million in the domestic bank, Shrek 2 made a single-day record $44.8 million on its first Saturday and never looked back, zooming past the $400 million mark in just 43 days, per Gray’s BoxOfficeMojo.com.
The CGI-animated fairy tale not only topped 2003’s Finding Nemo as the biggest-grossing feature-length ‘toon ever, it topped just about every movie ever made.
Shrek 2, starring the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy, now stands in third place among the all-time box-office champs, behind only 1997’s Titanic ($600.8 million) and 1977’s Star Wars ($461 million).
In an absolutely related development, Shrek 3 and just maybe Shrek 4 are already in the works at DreamWorks.
Shrek 2 was one of summer’s two mega-movies. The other also featured the number two in its title: Spider-Man 2, which had snared $367.8 million through last weekend.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the third summer movie to blow past $200 million, but at $247.6 million, it’s also the lowest-grossing flick of the boy-wizard franchise.
Likewise, Spider-Man 2 won’t make quite as much as its predecessor, Spider-Man, which ruled the 2002 box office with $406 million.
Overall, the Hollywood of 2004 is not the Hollywood of 2002. That year saw ticket sales jump 12 percent. That summer saw attendance grow by 7 percent.
This summer (defined as the first weekend in May through Labor Day weekend) will have seen actual attendance–living, breathing, popcorn-eating bodies–fall by about three-quarters of a percent, down to 637.8 million ticket buyers, Exhibitor Relations estimated.
The drop, though slight, marks the second straight summer of downward-trending attendance. Since 2002, the summertime movie-going public has shrunk by about 17.2 million bodies.
Still, aided by ticket prices reaching an average of $6.25–up more than $1 from five years ago–revenues continue to climb. The summer of 2004 will go down as the hottest one ever in terms of sales, with all films combining to gross $3.986 billion.
“This would be a solid [grade] B summer,” says Exhibitor Relations’ Paul Dergarabedian. “And you know, I think Hollywood would take a solid B every year.”
In all, 11 films crossed the $100 million mark, down from the 16 that hit nine figures in 2003.
To Gray, just about every movie that was expected to do well (Shrek 2, Spider-Man 2, et al.) did well. And just about every movie that wasn’t expected to do well, didn’t do well.
Among the films which saw weak buzz translate into weak box office (relative to cost): Catwoman ($39.4 million domestic gross; reputed $100 budget); King Arthur ($51.3 million; $120 million); and The Stepford Wives ($59.3 million; $90 million).
Other summer washouts: The Olsen twins’ New York Minute ($14 million); Brittany Murphy’s little-used Little Black Book ($19.8 million); and the so-not-nice-they-made-it-twice Exorcist: The Beginning ($31.2 million).
Adding insult to injury, this stat regarding the biggest summer flop not called Thunderbirds ($6.8 million): Disney’s $110 million remake of Around the World in 80 Days, which amounted to about as much box-office business ($23.9 million) as two micro-budget indies–Open Water ($23.2 million) and Napoleon Dynamite ($22.4 million), each produced for less than $1 million.
Still, Gray called the so-so $77 million taken in by The Terminal, a would-be prestige picture from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the biggest disappointment of the summer.
“Going in, it had the pedigree, it had the release date [mid-June] as being the first adult release of the season,” says Gray. “It was an unusual, tough sell, but then Tom Hanks is known for taking tough sells and turning them into gold.”
This time, instead of running Forrest Gump to the top of the box office, Hanks and his airport drama got stuck in traffic with the likes of The Notebook ($77.4 million), The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement ($75.1 million) and, read it and weep, Garfield: The Movie ($74.7 million).
On paper, Van Helsing, with $120 million in U.S. ticket sales off a reported $160 million budget, would seem to be a big-money loser, but that’s only if the paper doesn’t include worldwide grosses.
Across the globe, the Hugh Jackman monster mash has more than doubled its pleasure, for an overall haul of $269.5 million, per BoxOfficeMojo.com.
“As time goes by, domestic is just part of the story,” Gray says.
No summer movie benefited more from the disposable incomes of overseas audiences than Troy, which managed a respectable $133.2 million for a nearly three-hour, R-rated war movie in the States, but hauled in another $358.4 million from Brad Pitt-worshipping international markets.
Figuring in overseas grosses also helps pretty-up the likes of King Arthur ($158.9 million worldwide) and The Stepford Wives ($94.4 million).
Does that mean there’s hope yet for Catwoman?
Says Gray: “No.”
Well, there’s always DVD…
Here’s a look at the top 10 domestic summer films of 2004, according to Exhibitor Relations:
1. Shrek 2, $436.5 million
2. Spider-Man 2, $367.8 million
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, $247.6 million
4. The Day After Tomorrow, $186.2 million
5. The Bourne Supremacy, $157.7 million
6. I, Robot, $140.5 million
7. Troy, $133.2 million
8. Van Helsing, $120 million
9. Fahrenheit 9/11, $117.5 million
10. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, $113.3 million
Ogre and Out for Summer Box Office