New Madagascar film is tops

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Los Angeles - The third animated Madagascar film stampeded past sci-fi thriller Prometheus to top US and Canadian box office charts with nearly $60.4-million in ticket sales over the weekend.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted also performed well in its debut in 28 international markets, bringing global ticket sales to $135.8-million in its opening weekend, according to distributor Paramount Pictures.

Anne Globe, chief marketing officer with the film's production company DreamWorks Animation, said the family-friendly movie attracted many young viewers with over a quarter of tickets sold for children under 12 years of age and more than half its total audiences comprised of viewers under 25.

The “Madagascar” franchise about the wacky misadventures of escaped zoo animals has grossed more than $1-billion around the world since the first film debuted in 2005.

Paramount had projected a $45-million US and Canadian opening for Madagascar 3, and it roundly beat that forecast. But the new sequel's debut fell slightly short of the last Madagascar movie, which opened in November 2008 with $63-million from US and Canadian theatres.

Still, it has received more critical praise than the previous two Madagascar films, racking up a 76-percent positive rating on critic aggregation site Rottentomatoes.com.

When asked about the possibility of a fourth installment in the series, Globe said DreamWorks was too busy enjoying its current success to give much thought to the future.

“It's too early to tell. There hasn't been a lot of discussion about that,” she said.

In the new film, the animal pack joins a European travelling circus to try to get back to New York. Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer provide voices for the lead characters. The 3D movie cost $145-million to make.

In second place, Prometheus starring Charlize Theron, pulled in $50-million. The 3D effects-filled film from Alien director Ridley Scott tells the story of a team of explorers who discover a clue to the origins of mankind. Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender also star.

Ahead of the weekend, Fox projected a $30-million domestic opening for Prometheus, which cost $130-million to produce.

Chris Aronson, executive vice president for domestic distribution at Fox, said he was surprised at the film's success.

“It's just blown away our expectations,” he said, attributing the performance to “word of mouth (publicity), a great film by Ridley Scott and a terrific (advertising) campaign”.

The film also garnered more female viewers than expected, Aronson added, with women filling 43 percent of theatre seats.

Prometheus opened overseas one week ago and picked up $39.2-million in international markets this weekend. The movie's global total ticket sales now stand at $141.5-million.

Last week's box office winner, action-filled Snow White and the Huntsman, slipped to third place with $23-million. The dark take on the classic fairy tale, also starring Theron, has pulled in $83.5-million around the world since its debut.

Rounding out the top five on domestic charts were the third Men in Black comedy, which took in $13.5-million, and Marvel superhero hit The Avengers, which brought in $10.8-million. - Reuters


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