Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted led the way this weekend with a stronger than expected debut of $60.32 million. The 3D computer animated sequel from Paramount and DreamWorks Animation opened just 4 percent below the $63.11 million start of 2008's Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (which didn't have the benefit of higher priced 3D admissions). That was impressive given the fall-offs Kung Fu Panda 2, Cars 2 and especially Happy Feet Two all experienced from their predecessors last year. Madagascar 3 registered the seventh largest unadjusted debut ever in the month of June.
A strong marketing campaign and there having been only one other computer animated blockbuster so far in 2012 (Universal's The Lorax) are both factors that helped out Madagascar 3 this weekend. However, with Disney's computer animated Brave on the near horizon, there is a strong possibility that Madagascar 3 could be relatively front-loaded for a computer animated family film.
Madagascar 3 was also off to a strong start internationally, where it grossed $76.4 million from just 28 foreign territories. That places the film's worldwide launch at $136.7 million. Key grosses included $16.4 million in Russia, $11.0 million in Brazil, $10.4 million in China, $7.6 million in France, $6.6 million in Mexico and $4.3 million in Korea.
Fox's Prometheus took second place with a very solid $51.05 million start. The Ridley Scott directed 3D Alien spin-off opened in line with pre-release expectations, though the film had also been expected by many to top Madagascar 3 heading into the weekend. Without taking into account ticket price inflation, Prometheus opened 33 percent stronger than the $38.29 million start of 2004's Alien vs. Predator. Compared to Fox's 2011 franchise re-launches, Prometheus opened 7 percent softer than both the $55.10 million start of X-Men: First Class and the $54.81 million start of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (neither of which had the advantage of higher priced 3D admissions that Prometheus had). With that said, it's also true that the Alien franchise carried more box office baggage with it than either the X-Men or Planet of the Apes franchise did last year at the time of their re-launches.
One potentially troubling aspect of this weekend's debut was that Prometheus was very front-loaded towards Friday's opening day gross of $21.47 million (which had the added benefit of a strong midnight start), as it registered an opening weekend to Friday ratio of just 2.38 to 1. However, Prometheus is also likely to be relatively weak on Saturdays and Sundays in general given its non-family appeal and Saturday's Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals certainly didn't help matters either this weekend. With that said, the jury is still out on whether or not Prometheus can turn around from its early front-loading going forward, especially when it comes to midweek grosses.
On the international front, Prometheus grossed $38.6 million from 50 international markets. That places the film's international total to $90.9 million and worldwide total to $142.0 million. Key debuts this weekend included $7.0 million in Australia and $4.2 million in Korea. Key holdover grosses included $5.0 million in the United Kingdom, $3.9 million in France and $3.2 million in Russia.
This weekend marked only the second time that two films have opened with unadjusted grosses of at least $50 million each during the same three-day frame. The previous occurrence was back in June of 2008 when Disney's Wall-E debuted with $63.09 million and Universal's Wanted debuted with $50.93 million.
On the heels of last weekend's stronger than expected start, Universal's Snow White and the Huntsman fell a sharp 59 percent and two spots to place in third with $23.06 million. The big-budget adaptation with four-quadrant appeal clearly took a sizable hit from the one-two punch of Madagascar 3 and Prometheus (as did most other holdovers in wide release this weekend). Snow White and the Huntsman has grossed a solid $98.54 million in ten days, placing it nearly on par with the $98.02 million ten-day start of last year's X-Men: First Class. Given this weekend's decline, next weekend's hold will be especially important for Snow White and the Huntsman going forward.
Internationally, Snow White and the Huntsman grossed $24.6 million from 52 territories. That brings the film's international total to $83.5 million and worldwide haul to $182.0 million.
Marvel's The Avengers fell 45 percent and two spots to take fifth place with $11.25 million. The 38-day total for Disney's blockbuster superhero film stands at a mighty $572.30 million. That leaves The Avengers just $27.70 million away from reaching the $600 million domestic milestone.
This weekend saw The Hunger Games reach the $400 million domestic milestone. Lionsgate's blockbuster adaptation reached the milestone on Sunday and has grossed $400.27 million through 80 days of release.
Additional reporting by Phil Contrino.