Key Points:

LOS ANGELES - Animated film Shrek the Third shattered the opening weekend record for an animated film, bringing in US$US122 million (NZ$167m), exceeding expectations and chalking up the third-biggest opening of all time.

The film, starring a lovable green ogre and his wise-cracking donkey friend, stole the No 1 spot from Spider-Man 3.

Analysts expected Shrek the Third to gross between US$80 million and US$110 million and some analysts had not expected the film to top the US$108 million opening of Shrek 2, which had been biggest first weekend for an animated film in box office history.

"We can't believe it. I'm thrilled," Ann Daly, DreamWorks chief operating officer, told Reuters.

Critics gave mixed reviews to Shrek the Third and its predecessor.

The record-breaking results also mark the best opening of all time for distributor Paramount Pictures film.

Spider-Man 3 slipped to the No. 2 spot this weekend with ticket sales of US$28.5 million and 28 Weeks Later fell one spot to No. 3 at US$5.2 million.

Spider-Man 3 retains its title for biggest-ever box office opening at US$151.1 million, followed by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest at US$135.6 million.