"Shrek Forever After" won another weekend at the box office, while "Sex and the City 2" and "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" were in a photo finish for the No. 2 spot.
With $55.7 million over the long Memorial Day holiday, DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek Forever After" was No. 1 for a second-straight weekend. The movie raised its 10-day domestic total to $145.5 million.
"To be so decisively No. 1 in the face of these other two big movies is pretty thrilling," said Anne Globe, head of marketing for DreamWorks Animation.
Many in Hollywood thought "Sex and the City 2" would debut at No. 1. But the Warner Bros. release may have to settle for third-place.
Based on studio estimates Monday for the four-day weekend, Disney's "Prince of Persia" debuted at No. 2 with $37.8 million, slightly ahead of the $37.1 million for "Sex and the City 2."
The two movies were close enough that second- and third-place rankings could change once final numbers are released Tuesday.
"Sex and the City 2," which reunites Sarah Jessica Parker and her fashionable co-stars from the HBO series, would have put up bigger weekend numbers, but Warner Bros. decided to give the movie a head-start by opening it Thursday, a day ahead of most new releases.
The movie took in $14.2 million on Thursday, leaving it with $51.4 million after its first five days. The original "Sex and the City" movie took in $56.8 million in its first three days in 2008.
"We obviously siphoned off some of our weekend by going a day early," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution at Warner Bros.
Based on the video game, "Prince of Persia" stars Jake Gyllenhaal in an action adventure set in ancient times.
Box-office analysts had expected it to finish the weekend behind "Shrek Forever After" and "Sex and the City 2." While "Prince of Persia" trailed those movies for most of the weekend, it held up well enough Monday to slide into the No. 2 spot.
"Our surprise strength through the weekend and coming in second rather than the predicted third was a nice plus," said Chuck Viane, head of distribution for Disney.
Like "Sex and the City 2," the fourth "Shrek" movie is trailing its predecessors, opening well behind the $100-million-dollar plus debut weekends for the second and third sequels.
The difference grows wider considering "Shrek Forever After" benefits from premium 3-D ticket prices, which cost a few dollars more than 2-D admissions. The 3-D screenings account for 61 percent of the movie's revenue, while the previous "Shrek" movies did their business in 2-D format.
With a $20.6 million weekend and a domestic total of $279.2 million, Paramount's "Iron Man 2" is outpacing its predecessor. But Hollywood's overall business is starting to lag compared to last year's record summer revenues.
Ticket sales for Friday to Monday came in at about $187 million, down nearly 16 percent compared to Memorial Day weekend in 2009, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
Receipts since the summer season began in early May are at $811.5 million, down just a fraction from where revenues were at a year ago. Factoring in higher ticket prices, though, admissions so far this summer are down 6.6 percent compared to last year's, according to Hollywood.com.
"The audience is not absolutely thrilled with the movies in the marketplace, and they're voting with their absence now," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst at Hollywood.com.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Monday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Tuesday.
1. "Shrek Forever After," $55.7 million.
2. "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," $37.8 million.
3. "Sex and the City 2," $37.1 million.
4. "Iron Man 2," $20.6 million.
5. "Robin Hood," $13.6 million.
6. "Letters to Juliet," $7.3 million.
7. "Just Wright," $2.7 million.
8. "Date Night," $2.3 million.
9. "MacGruber," $1.9 million.
10. "How to Train Your Dragon," $1.5 million.
Universal Pictures and Focus Features are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co.; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount and Paramount Vantage are divisions of Viacom Inc.; Disney's parent is The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.; 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox Atomic are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.; Rogue Pictures is owned by Relativity Media LLC; Overture Films is a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp.
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