North American box office: the lion is king as ‘Madagascar 2’ wins big

Last week’s box office prognostications for Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa’s opening weekend were optimistic, but there seemed to be near universal agreement that $60 million would be a stretch for the flick. Well:

1. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa: $63.5 million (NEW)
2. Role Models: $19.3 million (NEW)
3. High School Musical 3: Senior Year: $9.3 million (3rd week; drops 39%)
4. Changeling: $7.3 million (2nd week in wide release; drops 22%)
5. Zack and Miri Make a Porno: $6.5 million (2nd week; drops 35%)
By every measure, Madagascar 2 outperformed its predecessor, which earned $61 million over its first four days, Memorial Day weekend in 2005. My initial reaction was to think that the premium ticket prices at IMAX venues must have given a bit of a boost to 2’s numbers, but it seems not: apparently only $3.6 million came from the 131 IMAX screens the film was playing on. Which is extremely impressive on its own — $3.6 million from 131 screens is a per-screen average of $27,481 — but even removing the IMAX dough, the sequel still beat the first film handily.

Role Models looks to have been smart counterprogramming: the movie is shit, but as an R-rated alternative to the cartoon animals, it obviously appealed to plenty of moviegoers. Grossout comedies sell, even without stars — Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott are hardly newcomers, but hardly household names, either — though I look forward to the end of their reign, which I pray will be soon.

Speaking of stars: People like Angelina Jolie. Changeling’s minuscule drop of only 22 percent has gotta be down to her excellent and riveting performance in the film… as well as the counterprogramming aspect of the movie being the only superwide release aimed at adults who don’t go in for R-rated juvenile comedy.

Milestones this week: Saw V passed $50 million, and High School Musical 3 passed $75 million. HSM3 won’t pass $100 million, but I’m sure everyone at Disney is very happy anyway. And sometime in the next few weeks, Eagle Eye will creep past $100 million.

Madagascar so dominated the multiplexes this weekend that it even won the per-screen derby, which usually goes to an arthouse flick: it took in $15,656 at each of its 4,056 venues (which includes the IMAX screens). Close behind, though, was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, earning $15,000 on each of its 17 screens. Third was the Jean Claude Van Damme spoof JCVD, with $11,650 on each of two screens.

Thanksgiving may be three weekends away still, but the holiday moviegoing season appears to have arrived. Will moviegoers nervous about the economy hold off on going to the flicks — particularly with no Harry Potter movie on offer — or will they welcome the escape? We’ll see…

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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