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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The studio behind "Shrek Forever After" had plenty to laugh about as the film beat a pair of comedies at the North American box office to take the No. 1 spot for the third straight weekend, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.
The animated film's strong staying power and its estimated weekend take of $25.3 million bodes well for DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc, which last month saw its share price dip after the movie suffered a lower-than-expected opening.
"Families seem to be the ones really driving the box office and 'Shrek' being a great movie for everyone to see together, that seems to be working very well for 'Shrek,'" said Anne Globe, head of worldwide marketing at DreamWorks.
The raunchy comedy "Get Him to the Greek" from producer Judd Apatow claimed the No. 2 spot with $17.4 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada.
"It's very interesting that Judd Apatow makes very responsibly budgeted films so it bodes well for the overall success in theaters and beyond," said Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution for Universal Pictures, the General Electric Co-owned studio that released the film.
"Get Him to the Greek," which cost about $40 million to produce, stars British actor Russell Brand as a brash rock star and Jonah Hill as a record label intern who must get him from London to Los Angeles for a concert date.
The romantic comedy "Killers," which studio Lions Gate Entertainment Corp had declined to show for critics to avoid scathing reviews, came in at No. 3 with $16.1 million in the United States and Canada.
The movie, with a budget in the mid-$60 million range, stars Ashton Kutcher as a man with a secret job as a killer, and Katherine Heigl as his unknowing wife.
The overall box office was about $125 million, which was down a huge 25 percent from the same weekend a year ago, which saw $165.3 million in U.S. and Canada ticket sales, said Paul Dergarabedian, head of tracking firm Hollywood.com Box Office.
The box office was down last weekend, too.
"We really have to hope that films like 'The Karate Kid' and 'The A-Team' (both opening Friday) with this totally 80's weekend will save the day, will turn things around," he said.
Going into the weekend, box office watchers had expected "Shrek Forever After," which is distributed by Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures, to best "Get Him to the Greek" and "Killers." Its strong performance was only a 41.6 percent drop compared to the previous weekend.
DreamWorks' last animated film, "How to Train Your Dragon," also opened weakly but showed strong staying power by dominating the family audience.
"Shrek" had competition for families' attention this weekend, as 20th Century Fox, a division of News Corp, debuted the talking dog movie "Marmaduke." But it opened to only $11.3 million in the United States and Canada, placing at No. 6.
"Shrek" has made $183 million in the U.S. and Canada and $68.4 million internationally, but it has yet to open in most of Europe and Latin America because of a delayed release designed to avoid losing audiences to the World Cup.
"Sex and the City 2," in its second weekend in theaters, suffered a sizable drop of 59 percent to $12.7 million. The poorly reviewed female-oriented comedy is from Warner Bros, a division of Time Warner Inc.
That performance placed "Sex" one rank below the estimated $13.9 million in U.S. and Canada ticket sales collected by the Walt Disney Co's video game adaptation "Prince of Persia," which took the No. 4 spot in its third weekend in international release and second weekend in the U.S. and Canada.
The low-budget horror movie "Splice" from Warner Bros debuted with $7.5 million in the U.S. and Canada, which was slightly below expectations and placed it at No. 8.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis, editing by Bill Trott and Jackie Frank