Box office preview: 'Prometheus' and 'Madagascar 3' duke it out

prometheus-michael-fassbender

Charlize Theron, you’re about to get knocked out of the top spot…by yourself. The Oscar-winning actress, who stars in last weekend’s chart topper Snow White and the Huntsman, has another blockbuster hitting theaters this weekend: the Ridley Scott-directed sci-fi epic Prometheus.

Anticipation is high for the film, but it will face stiff competition from fellow newcomer Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, which will give families their first viable moviegoing option in a while.

The two films should lead the box office to its strongest results in weeks. Here’s how the Top 5 might shake out:

1. Prometheus — $56 million

Fox has been cagey about linking Ridley Scott’s $130 million sci-fi thriller to his original Alien film, which grossed $79 million in its original run in 1979, but buzz has built among cinephile fanboys nonetheless. Prometheus has the potential to become this year’s Inception — a thinky, effects-heavy thriller that catches on with mainstream audiences. Inception grossed $62 million in its opening weekend in July 2010, but Prometheus might start a little softer — even with 3-D ticket prices. Without a major star like Leonardo DiCaprio, some casual moviegoers (especially female ones) will not rush to the theater, and the film’s R rating may keep younger patrons at bay. Men will almost certainly make up the predominant audience — and enough of them should show up to put Prometheus in first place. If the film garners strong word-of-mouth, it could become a runaway smash. This weekend, though, it may find about $56 million.

2. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted — $48 million

The original Madagascar earned $193.6 million in 2005. Its sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa earned $180 million in 2008 — but it finished with $603 million worldwide. For DreamWorks, it was a no-brainer to greenlight a third installment, and although it may not reach the heights of its predecessors domestically, strong international sales are all but guaranteed. The $145 million 3-D picture is the first animated family option since The Lorax debuted 14 weeks ago (I’m not counting The Pirates! Band of Misfits, which hit theaters in late April), and entertainment-starved kiddies will fill seats. Still, animated sequels like Kung Fu Panda 2 have seen diminishing returns in recent years. (That picture only opened to $47.7 million vs. the original Kung Fu Panda‘s $60.2 million debut haul.) Thus, I’m thinking a $48 million weekend is probably in store. Of course, it could surprise and top the chart as well!

3. Snow White and the Huntsman — $26 million

Kristen Stewart and company may dip by about 55 percent in the face of competition, which would give the film, which received a “B” CinemaScore grade, $100 million after ten days.

4. Men In Black 3 — $13 million

The action-comedy is losing 3-D screens to both Madagascar and Prometheus, and the zoo-themed animation will cut into family business. Thus a 55 percent drop seems likely.

5. The Avengers — $12 million

The superhero ensemble has been notching strong holds sine its debut. Another 45 percent drop would put it at about $11-12 million for the three-day frame.

Stay tuned to EW for full box office coverage this weekend, and follow me on twitter for breaking, up-to-the-minute box office updates.

More on EW.com:
Prometheus — EW Review
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted — EW Review

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