Weekend Box Office (June 8 - 10, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The North American summer box office jolted back to life after a three-week slump thanks to a pair of powerful new 3D flicks - the animated sequel Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and the sci-fi chiller Prometheus - which kicked in over $111M in combined ticket sales. The overall marketplace surged more than 30% over last year's which was a healthy gain after recent weeks saw box office numbers trail last summer's.

Paramount topped the charts for the first time since the beginning of January with its release of the DreamWorks Animation sequel Madagascar 3 which grossed $60.3M over the weekend, according to final studio figures. The PG-rated film averaged a solid $14,166 from an ultrawide 4,258 locations taking advantage of being a big kids brand at a time when there was a major drought in the marketplace for kid films. Outside of some smaller titles that picked up respectable numbers, the last major film targeting boys and girls alike was the Dr. Seuss smash The Lorax in early March which was another 3D pic that opened big with its $70.2M bow on its way to $210M+.

Parents and kids were hungry for some big-ticket entertainment and the new Madagascar proved that there was still interest in these characters. Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and others returned to the voice booths for even fatter paychecks and their splashy premiere at Cannes (a common stunt for DreamWorks summer toons) helped put the movie into the global spotlight. Friday saw a $20.7M start, Saturday inched up 9% to $22.6M and Sunday dipped by 24% to $17.1M. With many kids already out of school and available to go to the movies on Fridays, the Saturday increase was not as high as for those kidpics releasing during the school year. The first Madagascar opened to $47.2M in May 2005 while its followup Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa debuted to $63.1M in November 2008. Both were in 2D.

Budgeted at $145M, the threequel won over ticket buyers earning a promising A grade from CinemaScore which should bode well for the weeks ahead. Next week will see no major direct threats but the following frame sees the launch of Pixar's competing 3D summer offering Brave. Usually there is more than one free weekend separating the DreamWorks and Pixar summer tentpoles. But by entering the marketplace first, and following a long dryspell, Madagascar won big points and is well-positioned to amass a large cume before the Scottish princess arrives. According to studio data, 56% of the audience was female, 54% was under 25, and 3D accounted for 45% of the gross.

The zoo animals also conquered the international box office with a day-and-date debut in 28 markets for a mighty overseas opening of $75.5M making for a muscular global launch of $136M. Animation-loving Russia led the way with $16.4M including the biggest toon opening day in local box office history on Thursday. Brazil followed with $11M and China took in $10.4M.

Opening in second place with a strong debut was Ridley Scott's new sci-fi epic Prometheus with $51.1M marking the year's best debut for an R-rated film. Fox released the outer space flick in 3,396 locations and averaged an impressive $15,032 per site. Reviews were generally good with high marks for the technical achievements, but fans were not as pleased as the 3D film earned a mediocre B grade from those polled by CinemaScore. Also ticket sales plunged 25% from Friday to Saturday indicating that the road ahead might be rocky. Franchise films can often suffer Saturday dips in the summer as fans rush out on the first day, however the Prometheus decline was hefty even by sci-fi standards. However, Sunday had a terrific hold sliding only 15%. The marketing push generated intrigue which led to a large first-day turnout and the weekend number was close to the debuts of the studio's sci-fi prequels from last summer X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Planet of the Apes which both bowed to about $55M. Neither was in 3D, but they did both carry the more commercially friendly PG-13 rating.

Still, it was a huge debut as the last R-rated movie that opened higher which wasn't a regular sequel was 2009's Watchmen with $55.2M. That comic pic also fell 25% from Friday to Saturday. Prometheus actually debuted at number one on Friday with $21.5M which was enough to beat the Madagascar sequel that day. But Saturday tumbled down to $16M and a slim 15% dip on Sunday led to $13.6M - $1.1M better than originally estimated. Moviegoers were eager to see the Noomi Rapace-led pic in the best possible format at a whopping 18% of the gross came from IMAX screens setting a new June record. Overall, 54% of the weekend take came from 3D screens. As expected, adult men made up the largest sector of the audience. Studio research showed that 57% was male and 64% were 25 and older.

Prometheus, which cost about $130M to produce, opened in several new markets this weekend while in its second round of play overseas. The effects-heavy film took in an estimated $39.2M internationally to lift the overseas cume to $91.5M from 50 markets for a global gross of $142.6M with major markets like China still to open.

Snow White and the Huntsman plunged in its second weekend falling 59% to $23.1M as word-of-mouth was not strong enough to keep the fairy tale adventure going. Universal has banked $98.5M in ten days and could end its run in the $140-150M range. Produced for a reported $170M, Snow White grossed an additional $24.6M this weekend overseas boosting the international take to $83.5M and the global gross to $182M.

Falling 51% to fourth place was the sci-fi sequel Men in Black 3 which grossed $13.9M in its third lap. Sony has taken in $135.9M over 17 days and is headed for a domestic finish of roughly $170M. But the Will Smith actioner continues to shine elsewhere in the world and pulled in an estimated $38.3M from 79 markets this weekend. That put the international tally at a strong $352.1M and worldwide figure at $488M with China and Russia leading the way with $63.4M and $35.6M, respectively. The three Men in Black films have now grossed $1.52 billion worldwide with the newest chapter being helped by higher 3D ticket prices.

Dropping down to fifth place but still breaking eight digits in its sixth turn was Disney's The Avengers with $11.2M sliding 45%. Coincidentally, this year's other major megahit The Hunger Games grossed a similar $10.8M in its sixth weekend. The Marvel juggernaut has now amassed $572.3M domestically and a colossal $1.4 billion worldwide.

Following in sixth place was the British hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which slipped only 27% to $3.3M for a cume to date of $31M for Fox Searchlight. Lionsgate's pregnancy comedy What to Expect When You're Expecting grossed $2.8M, off 37%, for a $35.8M cume.

Tumbling 55% to $2.3M was Universal's pricey flop Battleship which has banked a mere $59.8M to date. The action film's global total is now $295.4M with a very high 80% coming from overseas. It is very slowly inching its way across the triple century mark. The Sacha Baron Cohen comedy The Dictator fell sharply to ninth with $2.2M, down 52%, giving Paramount $55.3M to date.

Wes Anderson's indie darling Moonrise Kingdom expanded again in its third weekend and jumped into the top ten with $1.6M from only 96 theaters for a potent $16,247 average. The opening night film at this year's Cannes Film Festival has collected an impressive $3.7M from limited release and has much more to go as it continues to widen and play to a more upscale adult crowd as an alternative to mindless summer blockbusters. It could climb up to number eight next weekend.

Below the top ten, The Hunger Games broke the $400M mark on Sunday in its 80th day of release with a $1.1M weekend and $400.3M total. The Lionsgate smash sits at number 14 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters and still has a shot at climbing up one more notch if it can surpass the $402.1M of 2009's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Hunger has grossed nearly $650M worldwide and still has China to open to boost its worldwide tally some more.

The top ten films grossed $171.7M which was up 31% from last year when Super 8 opened at number one with $35.5M; and up 22% from 2010 when The Karate Kid debuted on top with $55.7M.

Compared to projections, Madagascar 3 powered well ahead of my $45M forecast while Prometheus came in a little higher than my $47M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Watch the NEW trailer for Wreck-It Ralph. For a review of Snow White and the Huntsman visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Rock of Ages and That's My Boy both open.


Last Updated: June 11, 2012 at 5:30PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.