A pack of Central Park Zoo animals could tromp on the king of
at the box office this weekend.
The animated 3-D family film
is expected to debut with about $55 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. That would give the film a slight edge over director
which is expected to sell between $50 million and $55 million worth of ticket sales.
The studios behind both movies are predicting softer openings.
, which is distributing "
3," estimates that the picture will debut with $45 million, while
says it believes that "Prometheus" will start off with a disappointing sum in the $30-million range.
" franchise has been one of the most successful properties for
Animation. The original grossed $532.7 million worldwide in 2005, and the sequel collected $603.9 million globally three years later. "
," which cost around $145 million to produce, takes the gang of escaped zoo animals to
, where they become part of a traveling circus.
The movie is one of the last
films that may be released by
, as the studio's distribution deal with the Viacom Inc.-owned studio expires at the end of this year. DreamWorks Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg is still weighing whether the animation studio will be able to self-distribute its films.
Like most of DreamWorks' movies, "Madagascar 3" will likely gross more overseas than in the U.S. and Canada. However, the movie's international receipts could be negatively affected by Euro 2012. The ultra-popular
Championship for national soccer teams begins Friday and runs through the end of the month.
This weekend, the movie is debuting in 28 foreign countries, but only three -- France, Belgium and Switzerland -- are in Europe, even though the film is set there.
Meanwhile, Fox spent about $130 million after tax credits to make "Prometheus," which follows a group of explorers trying to uncover the origins of human civilization. The movie stars an ensemble cast that includes
and Noomi Rapace.
In the last decade, Scott has had a poor track record at the box office, with flops including 2005's "Kingdom of Heaven" and 2008's "
." The director's biggest commercial success was 2000's Oscar-winning movie
starring his frequent collaborator
-- though he is still best known for his groundbreaking sci-fi movies,
and "Alien." In fact, many fans have for years been debating whether or not "Prometheus" is a prequel to "Alien," because the two movies share similar themes.
It remains to be seen how the film's R-rating will affect its box-office prospects, as most of the summer's big-budget live-action movies are rated PG-13. Outside of raunchy comedies, there have hardly been any R-rated films to hit theaters during the summer in the last decade. The sword-and-sandal epic "300" was rated R and ended up being a box-office smash in 2007, but that was released in March.
Last weekend, "Prometheus" debuted overseas in 15 foreign countries and has since grossed a healthy $51 million. This weekend, the film will play in a total of 35 international markets, including new locations Australia and South Korea.
A handful of independent movies are also opening this weekend in limited release. Magnolia Pictures will launch the
in 15 theaters. Meanwhile,
a quirky picture about time travel starring
, will debut in nine locations.
That movie premiered to positive buzz at the
in January, where it was acquired by FilmDistrict.
Also opening this weekend is
Fox Searchlight's romantic comedy featuring Greta Gerwig. The movie, which follows a young woman entangled in a love triangle, has earned middling reviews and will debut in four theaters.
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