Madagascar, Solace Open Big

After a disappointing early Fall, the box-office holiday season kicked off in high gear this week with the “Madagascar” sequel soaring welll above everyone’s expectations.

Dreamworks Animation’s “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” pulled in a $63.5 million three-day haul, easily trouncing the $47.2 million take of its predecessor, the $60.2 million opening of the studio’s “Kung Fu Panda” earlier in the year and the low $50-something million that many had been estimating it would open with. The film also scored positive if unenthusiastic reviews with 60% & 5.9/10 on Rotten Tomatoes and 61% & 7.0/10 on Metacritic.

Another pleasant surprise was in store for Universal Pictures. The Seann William Scott-Paul Rudd R-rated comedy “Role Models” also opened a few million more than expected – beating the low-teens estimates and grabbing $19.3 million for the weekend. The film went over better with critics who gave it quite positive reviews with 75% & 6.5/10 on Rotten Tomatoes and 61% & 9.0/10 on Metacritic.

The only other wide release was the Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac music-themed drama “Soul Men”. Reviews were mixed at best (41% & 4.9/10 on RT, 49% on MC) and the film pulled in a mere $5.6 million to come in at sixth place. Previously released films held firmer than estimated with many dropping only one-quarter or one-third of its audience from last week. Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling”, family drama “The Secret Life of Bees” and Kevin Smith comedy “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” held the best.

On the limited release front the news was also very good with the Holocaust drama “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”, the Van Damme action satire “JCVD”, and the horror-musical “Repo! The Genetic Opera” taking in solid screen averages of $15,000, $11,650 and $6,450 respectively. Christian horror film “House” however tanked with a mere $978 per screen average.

Internationally the word was Bond, James Bond as “Quantum of Solace” opened in most of its international territories and raked in a whopping $106.5 million weekend. The film nearly doubled the opening of “Casino Royale” in several territories and was the second biggest international opening of the year behind only “Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”. ‘Solace’ opens in the US this Friday, and other countries like Australia, Mexico and New Zealand at the end of the month.