Bursting into theaters across North America on Friday is the toon sequel Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa which looks to keep the recent wave of kidpic hits going strong. For those not interested in animated zoo animals, two R-rated buddy comedies also hit multiplexes – Role Models starring Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd plus Soul Men with Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac. Overall, the marketplace seems to have a very good chance of beating year-ago sales figures to kick off the holiday movie season.
Three and a half years after their first adventure grossed a stunning $531M worldwide, the fun-loving animals are back in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. The PG-rated film reunites the talented voice cast of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett-Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Cedric the Entertainer and picks up where the 2005 original left off with a story about the gang going from the island nation to… continental Africa. Putting the same characters into a new location is common for sequels but this one doesn’t really bother globe-trotting too much. But the story should not matter too much.
Kids and parents loved the first pic which pulled in a broad audience reaching teens and young adults too. It bowed to $47.2M over the three-day portion of the Memorial Day holiday frame that year and had sturdy legs. The brand has remained popular over the years thanks to DVD and TV so there is a desire to see these characters again. High School Musical 3 will be the only major competitor this weekend so the road ahead is clear for Africa to hit its mark. Over the last three years, November has been home to high profile animated films opening in the $38-42M range – 2005’s Chicken Little, 2006’s Happy Feet, and last year’s Bee Movie. Thanks to a built-in audience, Escape should have no problem soaring higher. Crashing into more than 3,900 locations, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa may take in about $55M this weekend.
Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd play friends that are ordered by a court to mentor two troubled kids in Universal’s raunchy comedy Role Models. The R-rated film has earned encouraging reviews and will play to older teens and young adults looking for envelope-pushing jokes. With a Medieval-crazy teen and a cursing ten-year-old, audiences are bound to find just that. The leads have had success in supporting roles while in this genre, Scott with the American Pie pics and Rudd with films from the Judd Apatow factory. While not A-listers individually, as a combined entity they should be able to pull in some sales for a movie like this. McLovin’ adds some voltage and the studio’s marketing push has been good too. Don’t expect early-November Borat numbers here, but a respectable turnout is likely plus word-of-mouth should be good going forward. Landing in about 2,700 theaters, Role Models might take in around $11M this weekend.
Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac play the two remaining members of a popular 1970s band that take a road trip to New York to perform once again in Soul Men. The MGM release will try to tap into the starpower of the leads but the film can’t help itself from being affected by the sympathy factor for Mac who died just three months ago. Reviews have not been very positive and both men have seen their big openings come from larger franchise films and movies with bigger stars in them. The African American audience will be critical here but it’s unclear how many white moviegoers will open their wallets for this film, even in this new Obama era. Debuting in roughly 2,000 sites, Soul Men could bow to about $9M.
Following its two-week stint on top, High School Musical 3 will fall from the number one spot and be replaced by another kidpic. But since last Friday’s box office was so affected by Halloween, this weekend’s overall decline may not be too large. Look for a 40% slide to about $9M for a 17-day cume of $75M. Zack and Miri Make a Porno will face direct competition from Role Models for the exact same audience. The Weinstein Co. release might drop by 50% to around $5M for a ten-day total of $19M.
LAST YEAR: The top two films swapped places with the animated comedy Bee Movie moving into first place with $25.6M and a 33% drop, while fellow sophomore American Gangster fell 45% to $24M. Debuting in third was the Vince Vaughn holiday comedy Fred Claus with $18.5M. The Warner Bros. title went on to collect $72M. Stumbling into fourth was the Tom Cruise–Robert Redford project Lions for Lambs with just $6.7M for MGM on its way to $15M. Buena Vista’s Dan in Real Life rounded out the top five with $6M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com