(AP) LOS ANGELES – Circus animals and space beasts have lifted Hollywood to a huge weekend.
The cuddly critters of “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” led the weekend with a $60.4 million debut domestically, followed by a big opening for Ridley Scott’s alien saga “Prometheus” at No.
DreamWorks Animation’s “Madagascar 3″ was the family favorite for the weekend, reuniting voice stars Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer as the zoo animals continue their travels by joining a circus.
“Madagascar 3″ outdid the $47.2 million debut of the 2005 original, though it came in behind the $63.1 million opening of the first sequel, 2008′s “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.”.
Still, Paramount noted that the France opening was 13% below that of the first franchise sequel, 2008’s Madagascar: Escape To Africa, which went on to gross a total of $423.9 million overseas.
“Europe’s Most Wanted” had the added benefit of today’s higher ticket prices and a bump from fans who caught 3 D shows, which cost a few dollars more than 2 D screenings.
Still, fans remain loyal to the franchise, and “Madagascar 3″ received generally better reviews than the previous two installments.
“It’s the beloved characters and their comic adventures. And `Madagascar 3′ is critically the best reviewed of the franchise. Both audiences and critics really love this one the most,” said Anne Globe, head of marketing for DreamWorks Animation.
“Madagascar 3″ also took in $75.5 million internationally for a worldwide debut of $135.9 million.
“Prometheus,” from 20th Century Fox, stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron in an offshoot of director’s Scott’s 1979 sci fi horror tale “Alien.”.
“Prometheus” did big business despite an R rating, which can limit a movie’s audience since fans under 17 must see it with an adult.
Conventional wisdom is that action films should come in with a PG 13 rating to cast the widest net possible for its audience.
“A $50 million weekend disproves that rule, for sure,” said Chris Aronson, head of distribution for 20th Century Fox.
Two new 3 D films each debuted with $50 million or more at the box office this weekend, jumpstarting ticket sales at the multiplex after weeks of lackluster business.
In recent years, the filmmaker has struggled to replicate the success of that film and 2000′s”Gladiator,” as movies like 2005′s “Kingdom of Heaven” and 2008′s ”Body of Lies” never topped the $50 million mark at the domestic box office.
27 PhotosDesigning “Prometheus”View the Full Gallery » The movie added $39.2 million overseas, bringing its international total to $91.5 million and its worldwide take to $141.5 million since it began rolling out in some markets a week earlier.
The movie’s worldwide total now stands at $182 million, and it cost Universal Pictures $170 million to produce and tens of millions more to market.
The one two punch of “Madagascar 3″ and “Prometheus” lifted Hollywood out of an early dip in summer season revenue.
After three straight weekends of declining receipts, domestic business totaled $177 million, up 29 percent from the same weekend last year, when “Super 8″ led with $35.5 million, according to box office tracker Hollywood.com.
After more than 11 weeks in release, the teen adventure movie grossed an additional $1.1 million this weekend, raising its total in the US to $400.3 million.
“It has to do with the variety of movies in the marketplace,” said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
The $145 million 3 D picture is the first animated family option since The Lorax debuted 14 weeks ago (Im not counting The Pirates.
The Oscar winning actress, who stars in last weekends chart topper Snow White and the Huntsman, has another blockbuster hitting theaters this weekend: the Ridley Scott directed sci fi epic Prometheus.
Sony’s “Men in Black 3″ finished fourth with $13.5 million, putting its domestic receipts at $135.5 million.
The year’s top grossing film, “The Avengers” added $7.8 million overseas, raising its international haul to $824.4 million and its worldwide revenue to just under $1.4 billion.
2 on this year’s box office chart, took in $1.1 million to cross the $400 million mark.
Its domestic total stands at $400.3 million, and the film has taken in nearly $650 million worldwide.
Its sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa earned $180 million in 2008 but it finished with $603 million worldwide.
After debuting with a solid $56.2 million last weekend, the film saw its ticket sales tumble 59% to $23 million.
“Snow White & the Huntsman,” $23 million ($24.6 million international)4.
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