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Family animated tentpole Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted landed at the top of the domestic box office with a stand-out $60.4 million opening, besting the $50 million scored by Ridley Scott’s sci-fi epic Prometheus.
The DreamWorks Animation and Paramount threequel also ruled overseas — where competition was fierce — grossing a stellar $75.5 million from 28 markets for a worldwide opening of $135.9 million.
Still, Prometheus was no slouch for an R-rated, original tentpole, and did more than expected on the strength of Scott’s fan base and 20th Century Fox’s creative marketing materials.
Internationally, where it began rolling out the previous weekend to impressive numbers, Prometheus came in No. 2, grossing $39.2 million from 50 markets for a pleasing foreign cume of $91.5 million and worldwide total of $141.5 million.
Reversing a downturn that has plagued the box office since early May, North American box office revenues were up nearly 30 percent from the same weekend last year when Super 8 opened.
PHOTOS: Top 15 Grossing Threequels of All Time
Madagascar 3 — benefiting from the pent-up demand for family product — earned a glowing A CinemaScore. The threequel returns Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer in the lead voice roles, while Frances McDormand, Martin Short, Jessica Chastain and Bryan Cranston join the franchise.
“Audiences and critics loved this one the most, a real accomplishment,” said DreamWorks Animation president of marketing Anne Globe, noting that the first two titles each received an A- CinemaScore.
Madagascar performed on par with the first two movies in terms of box office returns, and brought DreamWorks Animation its best domestic debut since Shrek Forever After in 2010 ($70.8 million). It is the second-to-last DreamWorks Animation title that will distributed by Paramount unless the output deal between the two companies is renewed.
DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg and Paramount have been tireless in promoting the toon, which made its worldwide premiere last month at the Cannes Film Festival, a perfect environment since the movie’s storyline begins in the South of France.
In North America, Prometheus edged out Madagascar 3 on Friday, but fell 25 percent on Saturday (a typical pattern for fan-fueled fare). Scott and the studio intend for the movie to launch a franchise, similar to Scott’s blockbuster Alien series. Prometheus cost $130 million to produce after tax incentives.
“It is an out-of-this-world opening,” Fox president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson said. “A confluence of great reviews and solid word-of-mouth have conspired to create a global hit.”
Prometheus — headlining Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron — earned a B CinemaScore and skewed older, with 64 percent of the audience over the age of 25. Tracking had been best among men, but a fair number of females — 43 percent — ended up turning out.
Prometheus brought big returns for IMAX theaters. In North America, IMAX grosses from 294 theaters totaled $9.1 million, a June record for the exhibitor. Worldwide, weekend receipts reached $12.1 million.
PHOTOS: ‘Madagascar 3’ Premiere
Elsewhere at the domestic box office, Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman (also starring Theron) placed No. 3, falling 58 percent in its second weekend to an estimated $23 million for a domestic cume of $98.5 million. Overseas, Snow White earned $24.6 million from 52 territories for an international total of $83.5 million and worldwide haul of $182 million.
Sony’s Men in Black 3 continued to hold in well in its third weekend, coming in No. 4 domestically with $13.5 million and besting Snow White internationally with $38.3 million. The pic has now earned $487.5 million worldwide.
The Avengers continues to land high up on the box office chart, placing No. 5 with a $10.8 million. Worldwide, the Disney and Marvel Studios’ pic hit $1.4 billion over the weekend.
PHOTOS: Never-Seen Photos From ‘Prometheus’
Specialty titles The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom continued to impress in North America, both landing on the top 10 chart.
Marigold Hotel, from Fox Searchlight, placed No. 6 with a $3.2 million from 1,298 theaters for a domestic cume of $31 million in its sixth weekend. The movie has earned north of $82 million internationally.
Focus Features’ Moonrise came in No. 10 with $1.6 million as it expanded to 96 locations in its third outing. The Wes Anderson-directed film, which has now earned $3.8 million, posted a location average of $16,825 — the best of the weekend.
Several specialty films rolled out in limited runs over the weekend to mixed returns. FilmDistrict’s sci-fi indie Safety Not Guaranteed fared better than Searchlight’s Lola Versus, grossing $100,000 from nine locations for a theater average of $11,111. Lola Versus grossed $34,097 from four theaters for a location average of $8,524.
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