In this weekend's battle between the aliens and the cartoon zoo animals, the real winner was the box office.
"Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" beat "Prometheus," with both movies enjoying openings so large that the entire box office jumped more than 30 percent from the same period last year. Paramount / DreamWorks Animation's third "Madagascar" flick was #1 with an estimated $60.5 million debut, followed by filmmaker Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror thriller "Prometheus," which finished the weekend with a strong $50 million total.
Box-office experts had deemed the race too close to call last week, which seemed to be the case on Friday when "Prometheus" was leading the race. However, "Madagascar 3" had no problem trumping Scott's return to sci-fi over Saturday and Sunday. The animated flick (which features the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith and Sacha Baron Cohen, among others) carried a PG rating and played in more theaters than the R-rated "Prometheus," both of which undoubtedly helped the music-filled 3-D adventure tale secure the top spot against its big-question-asking, sort-of-"Alien"-prequel competition.
Kid-flick franchises tend to decline sharply in their third outings (look no further than "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked"), but the numbers for "Madagascar 3" weren't far off from the opening of its predecessor, "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," which debuted with $63.1 million in November, 2008. It is also the best-reviewed of the series, boasting a 76 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes (versus the 64 percent of "Africa" and the "rotten" 55 percent of the 2005 original). "The third time, despite what you've heard, is rarely the charm," wrote TheWrap.com's Alonso Duralde, "but 'Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted' marks the spot where a shrill and unfunny kid franchise made the leap into hilarious and engaging family entertainment."
"Prometheus" enjoyed the 12th highest opening of all time for an R-rated movie. It was the biggest opening for any of the films related (however loosely) to the "Alien" franchise and the second biggest opening for Scott, behind his "Silence of the Lambs" sequel, "Hannibal," which debuted with $58 million in 2001. 3-D ticket sales made up 54 percent of the movie's opening-weekend gross, many of which were IMAX screenings. 3-D made up 45 percent of the box office for "Madagascar."
Last week's #1 movie, "Snow White and the Huntsman," dropped a sharp 59 percent even as news broke of a greenlight for a sequel. "Snow White" made $23 million in its second weekend in theaters for a two-week total of $98.5 million.
"Men in Black 3," which was the first movie to finally knock "The Avengers" from the top spot, was #3 with $13.5 million for a 17-day total of $135.5 million. Speaking of Marvel's superhero team-up, the box-office record breaker was #5 with $10.8 million for a $571.9 million domestic total (and more than $1 billion worldwide).
"The Hunger Games," one of the biggest winners at the 2012 MTV Movie Awards, passed the $400 million mark on Sunday, according to studio estimates.
The latest from the filmmaker behind "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "Rushmore," "Moonrise Kingdom" expanded to 96 theaters over the weekend. (By comparison, "Madagascar 3" was at 4,258, "Prometheus" at 3,396.) Wes Anderson's newest movie has earned $3.7 million in the past three weeks, with a per-screen average of $16,488.
This weekend's new releases include the big-screen version of the Broadway show "Rock of Ages" as well as the Adam Sandler/ Andy Samberg team-up "That's My Boy." Both films will see wide release one week before Disney/ Pixar's "Brave" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."
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