Zoo Aliens Dominate Box Office: Film at 11
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
June 10, 2012
It’s the rare weekend that features two potential box office blockbusters. In the end, both films opened great, with consumers choosing zoo animals over aliens.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted wins an epic box office weekend with $60.4 million. This marks the second $60+ million opener for the franchise, falling just short of its immediate predecessor Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa’s $63.1 million in November of 2008. Given that the previous film was an early November release, Madagascar 3 is well positioned to exceed the $180 million domestic take of Madagascar 2, as well as effectively passing its worldwide total of $599 million.
Why was Madagascar the film of choice this weekend? It’s simple, really. Kids like zoo animals. Talking zoo animals are even better. Talking zoo animals at the circus? Well, is there a more commercial premise in existence? Not yet, but we’re sure the producers of this franchise are scheming about it as we type this (note: we suggest a theme park with roller coasters for Madagascar 4. Please send us our check and give us our “story by” credit now).
Of course, that’s the surface level evaluation. The popularity of Madagascar exists beyond toy-ready characters animated with vibrant color. Since their very first film, Antz, debuted in October of 1998, DreamWorks Animation has been building brand awareness for their unique CGI style and family-friendly stories. While there have been missteps along the way (remember Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas?), Madagascar is the film that will take DreamWorks Animation’s global earnings over $10 billion after 24 releases. Any company that is earning $420 million a project (not counting lucrative toy sales) is doing a lot right.
While DreamWorks’ last three releases, Megamind, Kung Fu Panda and Puss in Boots, were less popular domestically than the previous five (Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Monsters vs. Aliens, How to Train Your Dragon and Shrek Forever After), they’re back in their wheelhouse with Madagascar 3. Critics may complain that the stories are less compelling than Pixar’s, but Madagascar 3 does have a 76% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. This time around, at least, it seems that DreamWorks has made a movie that is appealing to all kinds of viewers.
Second place goes to Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s storied return to science fiction after a 30-year absence. Since the surprise announcement of the auteur’s return to the Alien universe, movie lovers have anxiously anticipated Prometheus’s opening weekend. Hype alone drove the film to a $50 million opening weekend. While critics were largely pleased with the film (74% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, including 73% of Top Critics), Prometheus’s B Cinemascore reflects a slight feeling of disappointment from people who were ready to champion it.
What happened next is a great example of how confused people become when perennial liars tell the truth. Fox execs had been running away from the idea that Prometheus is a true prequel to Scott’s 1979 masterwork, Alien. Rather than re-imagining Alien, Scott instead created a contemplative film reflective of a 74-year-old man considering his place in the universe. Prometheus is a movie that asks big questions and then demonstrates why there are no satisfactory answers. This theme is too challenging for a movie that is intended to be a summer blockbuster.