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‘Shrek 2’ No. 1 at weekend box office

From wire reports

It’s a humongous “happily ever after” for “Shrek 2.”

The computer-animated fairy tale satire collected an estimated $104.3 million at the weekend box office — the second-biggest three-day tally in movie history behind 2002’s “Spider-Man,” which took in $114.8 million.

The original “Shrek,” which opened in 2001, earned only $42.3 million in its first weekend but went on to collect $267.6 million and win the first Oscar for an animated feature film.

For the sequel, the grumpy green ogre collected $28.4 million on Friday, then jumped to an estimated $44.8 million on Saturday — breaking the record for highest one-day earnings, also held by “Spider-Man” with $43.6 million.

Its $11.8 million take last Wednesday, when it opened, was also a record for that day. And its estimated $125.3 million in earnings over its first five days broke the record set by “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” which grossed $124.1 million.

“Shrek 2” also scored the biggest opening ever for an animated film, easily topping “Finding Nemo’s” $70.2 million.

Analysts say it stands a chance at cracking the $400 million mark and becoming one of the top five films of all time.

“I’m looking through the dictionary for another word for “spectacular,’ ” said Dan Marks of the box-office tracking firm Nielsen EDI. “But that’s about all you can say. No one expected it to be this big.”

The previous weekend’s No. 1 film, the Brad Pitt epic “Troy,” fell to second place in its second weekend, earning $23.8 million for a total of $85.8 million. The movie cost a reported $200 million to make.

Third-place “Van Helsing” crossed the $100 million mark with weekend earnings of $10.1 million, and “Mean Girls” ranked fourth with $6.9 million.

” ‘Shrek 2’ was cutting into everybody else’s audience,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co.

“I think this was just a time when people were really ready for a good, lighthearted, escapist fantasy,” said Jim Tharp, head of distribution for DreamWorks. “And they found it.”

DreamWorks opened the sequel on 4,163 screens across the country, smashing the old record held by “X2: X-Men United,” which opened on 3,741 screens.

In “Shrek 2,” the title ogre (voiced by Mike Myers), his bride, Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and their pal Donkey (Eddie Murphy) visit Fiona’s royal parents in the kingdom of Far, Far Away.

Critics loved the movie, which appealed to young kids, with its colorful characters; to teenagers, with comedy; to couples, with romance; and to older audiences, with a subplot about parents accepting the decisions of their grown-up children.

About 60 percent of the audience was comprised of parents and their children, Tharp said. Studio exit polling found that 70 percent of respondents wanted to see the movie again, which bodes well for the movie’s future in the competitive summer blockbuster season.

“Shrek 2” is a great victory for DreamWorks, which has occasionally struggled to find its footing in the animated movie market. The first “Shrek” was a success and the studio had a modest hit with 1998’s computer-animated “Antz,” but traditionally animated fare like “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,” “The Road to El Dorado” and “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” were all money-losers.

“For us, this is really more about proving that we have a creative rhythm as a company,” said Ann Daly, head of animation for DreamWorks. “We found our tone and style.”

But creating a sequel to a beloved movie has its risks, Daly said.

“When people love the first one, the second one has to be at least as good,” she said. “You’re always nervous until you actually open it.”

Daly wouldn’t comment on specific plans for “Shrek” as a company franchise, but she did say the Shrek story had been conceived “as a ‘quadrilogy’ — four films that would trace his life.”

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