Weekend Box Office (November 7 - 9, 2008)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Business was booming at North American multiplexes as the cartoon sequel Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa dominated the marketplace with a sensational opening weekend to kick off the holiday movie season. Two new R-rated cuss-filled buddy comedies also debuted with the raunchy Role Models scoring a solid second place showing while the music-themed Soul Men disappointed in sixth. Thanks to two strong bows and solid holds for existing films, the overall box office surged to the best performance in four years for the first weekend of November.

DreamWorks Animation scored the seventh biggest opening of all-time for an animated film with the launch of the Madagascar sequel which pulled in $63.1M this weekend, according to final studio figures. The PG-rated film reunited the voice cast of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett-Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Cedric the Entertainer and averaged a stellar $15,559 from an ultrawide release in 4,056 locations. Distributed by Paramount, the muscular opening marked the best debut of any film since The Dark Knight and the top toon opener of 2008 inching past the $63.1M of WALL•E and the $60.2M of Kung Fu Panda, both from June.

Escape 2 Africa truly brought in the big crowds registering the fifth largest November launch in history trailing three Harry Potter films and The Incredibles which opened in 2004 with $70.5M. DreamWorks had a big hit on its hands in 2005 with the first Madagascar which bowed to $47.2M on its way to $193.2M domestic and $531M worldwide. For the second installment, all the major actors were signed and a new story taking place in Africa allowed the fun to continue. Reviews were somewhat good and the family audience looked at the film as an event.

Universal used its patented counter-programming skills to make a hit out of its buddy comedy Role Models which debuted in second with a better-than-expected $19.2M. The R-rated story of two slackers ordered by a court to mentor a pair of troubled kids averaged a strong $6,865 from 2,792 theaters and made a better connection with audiences than other recent R-rated comedies have. Earlier this fall, My Best Friend's Girl opened to $8.3M, Sex Drive bowed to $3.6M, and last weekend's Zack and Miri Make a Porno debuted to $10.1M. Starring Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd, Role Models also attracted fairly good reviews from critics and earned an encouraging A- grade from CinemaScore indicating that word-of-mouth should be positive. The audience was broad as studio research showed that 51% was under 25 and 53% was male.

Disney's two-time chart-topper High School Musical 3 fell two notches to third place sliding 40% to $9.2M. With $75.6M in its locker, the G-rated smash still has a shot at finishing with $100M.

The Angelina Jolie drama Changeling held up very well in its second weekend of wide release slipping only 22% to $7.3M without any major addition of screens. Clint Eastwood's latest directorial effort enjoyed the top ten's smallest decline and raised its total to $20.6M. The Universal release could be headed for a $45M total. The studio also crossed the $1 billion mark in year-to-date domestic box office thanks to its pair of hits in the top five. Kevin Smith's comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno grossed $6.3M, down just 38%, for a $20.7M tally in ten days. Look for The Weinstein Co. to finish with $35-40M.

Opening with weak results in sixth place was the road comedy Soul Men starring Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac which collected $5.4M. Averaging a mild $2,643 in 2,044 theaters, the R-rated MGM release attracted negative reviews with many critics expressing their disappointment over how this project would be one of the last fans would see the award-winning Mac in.

The horror tale Saw V tumbled 58% to $4.1M boosting the cume to $52.2M while rival fright flick The Haunting of Molly Hartley dipped just 39% to $3.3M for a ten-day sum of $10.1M. Final grosses should reach about $58M for Lionsgate and $18M for Freestyle, respectively.

Another good hold greeted The Secret Life of Bees which dipped 23% to $3.1M for a $29.9M tally for Fox Searchlight. The Queen Latifah pic could end up near $40M. Also enjoying good legs this fall, the actioner Eagle Eye took in $2.5M, off 27%, and a $96.3M total. The century club is in the Paramount release's future and a final of around $105M could result.

Overseas, the new James Bond actioner Quantum of Solace saw spectacular results from its major global roll-out into 57 new territories grossing an estimated $106.5M from 9,870 screens in 60 total markets. That boosted the total international gross to a staggering $160.3M in only ten days with every territory opening bigger than Casino Royale from two years ago. Quantum attacks the North American market on Friday and rival studios have all laid down their weapons as no other wide release will open against it. A debut well ahead of Royale's $40.8M is expected.

The top ten films grossed $123.4M which was up 31% from last year when Bee Movie climbed into the top spot in its second weekend with $25.6M; and up 17% from 2006 when Borat expanded in its sophomore frame and remained at number one with $28.3M.

Compared to projections, Madagascar opened ahead of my $55M forecast while Role Models powered well ahead of my $11M prediction. Soul Men bowed below my $9M projection.

For a NEW review of Role Models visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Quantum of Solace invades multiplexes across North America.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Nov 7 - 9 Oct 31 - Nov 2 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa $ 63,106,589 4,056 1 $ 15,559 $ 63,106,589 Paramount
2 Role Models 19,167,085 2,792 1 6,865 19,167,085 Universal
3 High School Musical 3: Senior Year 9,159,523 15,316,072 -40.2 3,464 3 2,644 75,573,993 Buena Vista
4 Changeling 7,252,940 9,351,560 -22.4 1,855 3 3,910 20,559,497 Universal
5 Zack and Miri Make a Porno 6,274,530 10,065,630 -37.7 2,735 2 2,294 20,686,907 Weinstein Co.
6 Soul Men 5,401,605 2,044 1 2,643 5,401,605 MGM
7 Saw V 4,067,071 9,741,578 -58.3 2,829 3 1,438 52,187,337 Lionsgate
8 The Haunting of Molly Hartley 3,318,694 5,423,315 -38.8 2,576 2 1,288 10,063,348 Freestyle
9 The Secret Life of Bees 3,089,467 4,010,668 -23.0 1,481 4 2,086 29,902,363 Fox Searchlight
10 Eagle Eye 2,541,602 3,482,655 -27.0 1,407 7 1,806 96,348,829 Paramount
11 Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2,518,049 4,864,021 -48.2 2,359 6 1,067 88,258,841 Buena Vista
12 Max Payne 1,789,136 3,688,253 -51.5 1,476 4 1,212 38,653,498 Fox
13 Fireproof 1,585,555 1,731,843 -8.4 872 7 1,818 28,327,659 Samuel Goldwyn
14 Body of Lies 1,537,219 2,304,348 -33.3 850 5 1,808 36,950,974 Warner Bros.
15 Rachel Getting Married 1,505,507 711,380 111.6 391 6 3,850 5,415,820 Sony Classics
16 Pride and Glory 1,293,389 3,363,452 -61.5 1,340 3 965 14,381,710 Warner Bros.
17 W. 1,120,600 2,384,386 -53.0 839 4 1,336 24,231,628 Lionsgate
18 RockNRolla 1,047,334 1,872,495 -44.1 826 5 1,268 4,373,979 Warner Bros.
19 Appaloosa 668,415 819,477 -18.4 735 8 909 18,658,697 Warner Bros.
20 Religulous 423,273 577,059 -26.6 274 5 1,545 12,125,806 Lionsgate
Top 5 $ 104,960,667 $ 34,733,262 202.2
Top 10 123,379,106 57,391,478 115.0
Top 20 136,867,583 79,708,192 71.7
Top 20 vs. 2007 136,867,583 106,605,013 28.4

Last Updated: November 10, 2008 at 6:30PM ET