Take the word ''Shrek,'' swap the R and the E, and change the E to an A. What do you get? Well, DreamWorks hopes it's as big an opening weekend as the green ogre's.
''Shark Tale,'' the latest computer-animated film from the studio, reaches more than 3,800 movie theaters this weekend, the widest ever release for a movie that's not a sequel. And though audiences and critics will likely say ''Shrek'' was funnier, families will still flock to the multiplexes this weekend, drawn in part by the film's voice cast, including Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, and Renée Zellweger. But let's face it: If you and I were the voices of the fish in this movie, it would also do quite well. Expect this ''Tale'' to swim away with around $38 million.
Also opening this weekend is ''Ladder 49,'' a firefighting drama starring John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix. With powerful TV ads that draw viewers into the heroes' lives, ''Ladder'' will have no trouble filling seats. And Travolta fans are still a force to be reckoned with. ''Ladder'' will climb to second place with a $25 million debut.
Last week's No. 1 film, ''The Forgotten,'' should take a big hit from the increased competition, falling 55 percent to $9 million, while ''Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow'' and ''Mr. 3000'' will gross another $3 million each. But perhaps the next two weekends will belong to the sharks.