This Weekend’s Winners: DreamWorks Animation’s third Madagascar ($60 million) surprised many by edging out Fox’s Prometheus ($50 million) for the top spot by a full ten million.
This Weekend’s Loser: Snow White and the Huntsman (No. 3 with $23 million) plunged by just short of 60 percent in its second weekend.
How It All Went Down: As DreamWorks Animation execs amply proved this weekend, it never hurts to low-ball expectations for your film. What's more, even last week, the older-skewing Alien prequel had Fox execs concerned that their franchise’s fans would eschew the multiplex on opening weekend for the reasons they always do: After all, if you’re old enough to remember being scared witless in theaters by the 1979 classic, you’re likely also old enough to want to avoid the crush of crowds that younger audiences seem to bear with equanimity, if not relish.
And then there was the matter of the R-rating on Prometheus, which also cut into tween and younger teen audiences. As one insider put it to us, “Fox will probably spend the next few years debating whether they should have gone for a PG-13 rating." But given its mostly positive reviews — three out of four critics penned favorable notices — it’s more than probable that, unlike Snow White and the Huntsman, its second weekend will be strong, too.
Still, another insider notes, if this past weekend proves anything, it’s that counterprogramming against a family film with R-rated fare is something of a myth. “Though some would argue [Madagascar 3] is a family movie and not the same audience [as Prometheus],” e-mailed one top production exec at a rival studio without skin in the game, “someone has to drive the kids to the theater — and those parents are not going to the movies twice.”
Sadly for Fox, a quick check of the history books would have reminded them of this lesson. Just jog back to Memorial Day Weekend of 2009, when Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian faced off against Terminator Salvation: The family-friendly Night sequel with a PG rating carried away $54.1 million, or $58 million in 2012 dollars, while Salvation (which carried a more-teen friendly PG-13 rating) managed only $42.5 million, or $45.6 in 2012 dollars.