Madagascar Rules Box Office; Role Models Real Winner
By John Hamann
November 9, 2008
After what was a crazy Halloween weekend with highs and lows of the most ridiculous kind, the box office bounced back sharply as it appears many moviegoers took last weekend off. The big payoff belongs to some of the new films opening this weekend. They include Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Role Models, and Soul Men, along with arthouse expander Rachel Getting Married from director Jonathan Demme. Another big question surrounded High School Musical 3: Senior Year - would it bounce back after a 68% drop last weekend, or die the slow death that so many of us are hoping for?
Our number one film of the weekend is no surprise. It's Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, from DreamWorks Animation with Paramount distributing. Madagascar 2 got off to a huge start and was at the high end of expectations with a fantastic opening weekend gross of $63.5 million. The kids' flick debuted on 4,056 venues, a huge count for any time of year, and earned a venue average of $15,654 - by far the highest in the top ten. This is a huge opening for Paramount, as the original Madagascar flick opened to $47 million over the three-day portion of the Memorial Day weekend in 2005 (it earned $61 million over four days). This tells us that the same audience that showed up in 2005 over four days came out this weekend over three days. The original Madagascar had a lot more competition to deal with when it opened, versus the sequel's opening. The original actually debuted in third spot in 2005, finishing behind Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and Adam Sandler's The Longest Yard. This year, with High School Musical 3 being eviscerated last weekend and Beverly Hills Chihuahua just about done, our favourite African animals had free reign with the family audience and triumphed broadly. This debut makes it one of the biggest openers ever for the month of November, trailing a handful of Harry Potter flicks (Goblet of Fire at $102 million, Sorcerer‘s Stone at $90.3 million, Chamber of Secrets at $88.4 million) and The Incredibles ($70.5 million). Oddly enough, this is a very similar total to that of Kung Fu Panda - that one opened to $60.2 million in June of this year, and just so happens to come out on DVD this weekend (it's a VERY big weekend for Paramount).
Madagascar 2 not only improved on opening weekend take compared to the original, it also received better reviews. This version of Madagascar came in at 60% fresh, with 51 critics out of a possible 85 liking it, compared to 55% for the original animated flick. The future should be bright for this sequel at the box office, as Warner Bros. moved Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince out of November 2008 to Summer 2009, leaving Disney's Bolt the only animated competition for Madagascar 2 in November - and Bolt doesn't open until November 21st. Will this Madagascar improve on the $195 million the original earned? It should, considering Thanksgiving and the holiday season are on the way (it could still be earning in the low millions come Christmas Day). To put it at its most simple, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a huge coup for Paramount and DreamWorks Animation.