The Day After Tomorrow: Kerry Hayes
Gary Susman
May 01, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It’ll be a cold day in May before ”Shrek 2” gives up its hold on the box office. Of course, that cold day may be Friday, when the modern-day Ice Age melodrama ”The Day After Tomorrow” opens. True, ”Tomorrow” doesn’t have big names (disaster movie director Roland Emmerich, of ”Independence Day” and ”Godzilla” fame, is more of a box office brand name than stars Dennis Quaid or Jake Gyllenhaal), and critics have given the movie the cold shoulder. Still, ”Tomorrow” has strong buzz for its striking visuals of apocalyptic destruction, and it’s riding a tsunami of hype as pundits debate its environmental politics. Young male ticket buyers have built Memorial Day blockbusters out of less. Opening on 3,400 screens, ”Tomorrow” could earn a cool $77 million over the four-day weekend.

Don’t count out the ogre, though. ”Shrek 2” will be playing on 800 more screens than ”Tomorrow,” it appeals to just about everyone, and it raked in so much green last week that, even with a modest 30 percent drop, it’ll still scare up $74 million over the holiday.

Both movies should have a chilling effect on the rest of the multiplex. Sure, Kate Hudson’s new comedy is aiming at an underserved female audience, but she’s had only one hit to date, and there’s no guarantee that ”Raising Helen” will be more ”How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” than ”Alex & Emma.” Opening on 2,600 screens, ”Helen” could raise about $16 million.

As for that other cute Hollywood blonde with a winning grin, Brad Pitt should see ”Troy” drop another 35 percent, to about $15 million. That means Snoop Dogg’s ”Soul Plane” will open in fifth place. Taxiing into just 1,400 theaters, it’ll barely get off the ground with about $10 million.

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