Box Office Report: 'Prometheus,' 'Madagascar 3' Open Strong, Eyeing $50 Mil-$60 Mil Openings


Michael Fassbender leads Noomi Rapace and Marshall-Green into tunnels built at Pinewood.

UPDATED: The two 3D films are in a closer race than expected, with early returns suggesting a $20 million to $26 million Friday for each.

Aliens and a crew of four-legged animals are bringing the domestic box office to life.

Ridley Scott's sci-fi epic Prometheus and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted are off to strong starts at the multiplex, where they're engaged in a close race.

Early returns indicate a $20 million to $25 million Friday for the two 3D films, and a weekend opening in the $50 million to $60 million range. Many believe Madagascar 3, benefiting from a pent-up demand for family product, will pull ahead over the weekend, though Prometheus easily could top the Friday box office.

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DreamWorks Animation and Paramount's Madagascar 3 already is seeing a boost from nearly 60 percent of elementary school kids being out of school. The threequel returns Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer in the lead voice roles.

Fox's Prometheus, in particular, is doing impressive business. The movie grossed $3.6 million in Thursday midnight runs, including a stellar $1 million from 294 Imax locations.

The film headlining Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron did notably better in its midnight performance than several recent event pics. Last weekend, Universal's Snow White and the Huntsman -- also starring Theron alongside Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth -- grossed $1.4 million in midnight runs on its way to a $56.2 million weekend. And two weeks ago, Sony's Men in Black 3 took in $1.6 million in midnight grosses.

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Box-office observers had been divided as to how much Prometheus will open to at the domestic box office, with estimates ranging from $35 million to north of $55 million going into the weekend (Fox was conservative in offering a $30 million figure). Prometheus is rated R, unlike many of its fellow tentpoles, and there's also the question of how many females will turn out to see the movie.

Fox and Scott are hoping that Prometheus launches a franchise, similar to Scott's blockbuster Alien series. A sequel is being discussed but has not been greenlighted.

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Prometheus and Madagascar 3 also are doing healthy business overseas.