Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/Warner Bros.

Moviegoers wanted Shrek, not sex, this past Memorial Day weekend.

Despite heavy buzz, Sex and the City 2 debuted at a disappointing No. 3 with $37.1 million, getting beat by Shrek Forever After ($55.7 million) and Prince of Persia ($37.8 million).

Dogged by terrible reviews Sex and the City 2 grossed less in five days than the original flick did in three days.

Says Moviefone's Gary Susman: "It's possible that the film was hurt by poor reviews, its R-rating, and its 2 1/2-hour running time (allowing for fewer screenings per day) or its inability to attract male moviegoers (polling found the Sex 2 audience to be 90 percent female), but none of these proved obstacles for the first movie. Maybe it's just that real-life women the ages of Carrie or Samantha were busy taking their kids to see Shrek."

Nevertheless, Warner Bros execs anticipate the film could fare better during the week.

"We will do better midweek," domestic distribution head Dan Fellman told BBC News. "It's just that this was a little more difficult weekend."