Six weeks ago, "The Avengers" entered theaters and blew everyone's expectations out of the water with its record-breaking $207.4 million debut.
In the weeks that followed, though, the box office fell into a bit of a slump. Expensive tentpoles like "Battleship" and "Dark Shadows" outright bombed, while major studio fare like "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and "The Dictator" underperformed, and even "Men In Black 3's" number one opening felt weak given its predecessors' strength.
Last weekend, "Snow White and the Hunstman" exceeded industry expectations, giving Hollywood hope that summer 2012 might live up to the hype that "The Avengers" had suggested. This weekend, "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" and and "Prometheus" continued to ease any fears that the box office was in trouble with robust debuts in first and second place, respectively. These hefty starts helped the Top 10 films gross $169.6 million, up a whopping 30 percent over the same weekend in 2011, when Super 8 topped the chart.
Dreamworks $145 million 3-D sequel "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," which features the voice work of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, and David Schwimmer as lost Central Park Zoo animals, handily won the weekend with $60.4 million, 45 percent of which came from 3-D ticket sales. That's a touch behind 2008′s "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," which started with $63.1 million, despite the fact that "Madagascar 3" earned more on its opening day than "Escape 2 Africa" ($20.5 million vs. $17.5 million). It looks like this threequel may suffer from a slight case of sequelitis, when franchise films become increasingly front-loaded at the box office as the franchise continues.
"Madagascar 3" earned a terrific "A" CinemaScore grade from polled audiences, which were 56 percent female and 54 percent below the age of 25, and it will benefit from strong word-of-mouth in the weeks to come. Still, "Madagascar 3" will likely finish a bit behind the $180 million total that "Escape 2 Africa," which played during the holiday season, earned domestically. International grosses are already proving to be more substantial, though. "Madagascar 3" earned $75.5 million overseas this weekend, giving it an early worldwide total of $135.9 million. The colorful comedy will face direct competition when Pixar's "Brave" debuts in two weeks, but its lighthearted tone and zippy pace may prove more attractive for summer moviegoers. We'll have to wait and see!
Ridley Scott's return to sci-fi, "Prometheus," invaded theaters in second place with $50 million. The $130 million Fox thriller, which stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, and current box office (ice) queen Charlize Theron, conjured an impressive $14,723 per theater average from 3,396 locations (ahead of "Madagascar's" $14,123 average from 4,258 venues).
"Prometheus" notched the best debut for an R-rated picture since "Paranormal Activity 3's" $52.6 million bow in October, but where it goes from here is anyone's guess. After topping the box office on Friday with $21.4 million, "Prometheus" sank 22 percent on Saturday -- a sure sign of built-in excitement from fanboys and fangirls who rushed to the theater to find out if the film really was an "Alien" prequel. Discouragingly, "Prometheus" earned a lukewarm "B" CinemaScore grade, yet it's sparking more post-release conversation than any title in recent memory, and although much of the chatter is negative (and filled with over-the-top vitriol for scribe Damon Lindelof), all the buzz could work in the film's favor.
Word-of-mouth doesn't suggest that "Prometheus" will become this year's "Inception," a thinky thriller-turned-box-office-smash, but its successful debut and ample international receipts (it's earned $91.5 million after two weekends) should have the suits at Fox pretty happy.
Last weekend's fairest movie of them all, "Snow White and the Huntsman," bit into the poison apple of competition and dropped 59 percent to $23 million during its second frame. The $170 million fantasy has earned $98.5 million total after ten days, and another $83.5 million overseas. Universal is reportedly fast-tracking a sequel for the film, which frankly seems like a rather irrational decision at this point. While a $181.5 million worldwide total is nothing to shake a stick scepter at, between the budget, marketing costs, and distribution fees, "Snow White" has a long way to go before it's out of the red. Still, Universal must see a path to profitability on the home market and ancillary markets. If the studio does make a sequel, I have one request: Bring back Charlize Theron!
"Men In Black 3" held on to fourth place, dropping 52 percent (after losing many 3-D screens to "Prometheus" and "Madagascar") to $13.5 million. The $230 million sequel has earned a lackluster $135.5 million after 17 days -- even without accounting for inflation, both "Men In Black" and "Men In Black 2" (neither of which had 3-D ticket prices working their favor) had earned more money at the same point in their runs, with $158.9 million and $148.0 million, respectively. The Sony production may finish with about $165 million, domestically.
Fortunately, international grosses have been powerful, and globally, "Men In Black 3" has earned $487.6 million total. Whether the film will eventually earn enough to counteract it's massive negative costs is unclear. (Speaking of negative costs, are you aware that the combined budgets of the Top 5 movies right now total $895 million? Seriously.)
Rounding out the Top 5, "The Avengers" flew to $10.8 million in its sixth frame -- a 47 percent drop -- which pushed its total to a truly heroic $571.9 million. Worldwide, "The Avengers" has grossed a jaw-dropping $1.396 billion.
This year's second-biggest blockbuster, "The Hunger Games," reached a major milestone over the weekend. On its 80th day of release, "Hunger Games" passed the $400 million mark in the United States -- a remarkable feat for a franchise launching pad. With a $248 million overseas total, the dystopian thriller hasn't exhibited similar box office ubiquity overseas, although this may very well change with future "Hunger Games" installments. The film's worldwide total will climb substantially when it opens in China later this month..
In limited release, Wes Anderson's well-liked indie "Moonrise Kingdom" continues to impress. The young love story picked up $1.6 million in 96 theaters, enough for a tenth place finish. "Moonrise" once again boasted a dazzling per theater average: it's $16,448 average was the best at the box office. After three weekends, the film has earned $3.8 million.
Fellow indies were met with mixed results. "Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding" found a weak $102,000 out of 30 theaters, which was slightly ahead of Sundance fave "Safety Not Guaranteed," which earned $100,000, but was notably playing in just 9 theaters. "Lola Versus" earned $34,100 out of 4 theaters, yielding an $8,525 average -- too low to merit major expansions.
What did you see this weekend? Do you think "Prometheus" will crash and burn from here, or do you think curiosity and buzz will attract more audiences? Sound off in the comments, box office junkies!