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    Prometheus Unbound at Midnight Box Office—How High Can It Go?

    Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Prometheus 20th Century Fox

    The big box-office question about Prometheus has not been whether it is (or isn't) a prequel to Alien, but how many people will (or won't) buy tickets to the shrouded-in-mystery Ridley Scott film. 

    The early returns suggest the answer will be quite a few.

    Prometheus grossed an estimated $3.6 million in midnight Friday screenings, its apparently pleased studio reported.

    RELATED: Roundup of Prometheus' early reviews

    Midnight grosses are tricky—they may or may not mean much, although good ones, like Prometheus', usually mean good things are in store for the weekend.

    "[It's] a telling sign that there is a lot of interest in this film, which is to be expected," Exhibitor Relations box-office analyst Jeff Bock said Friday.

    Prognosticators have pegged the ensemble sci-fi flick, featuring Charlize Theron, to finish the weekend at No. 1, although it's expected Madagascar 3, the other major new release, could debut just as big, if not bigger.

    Grosses from Madagascar 3's midnight screenings—and, yes, there were witching-hour showings for the kid-friendly animated comedy—were not known.

    RELATED: Which Summer Movies Will Be Hits...and Which Will Be Misses?

    Prometheus' midnight take is twice as big as Men in Black 3's from a couple weeks back.

    Overall, MiB3 posted a $55 million Friday-Sunday debut, which is about where Prometheus (and maybe Madagascar 3) are expected to end up.

    As of Thursday, Prometheus held the edge over Madagascar 3 in advance-ticket sales, per stats from the advance-ticket-seller Fandango. (E! and Fandango are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

    For now, Exhibitor Relations is holding to its Prometheus prediction of a box-office-topping, $57 million Friday-Sunday bow.

    "Inception debuted with $3 million at midnight and took in $62 million for the weekend," Bock said of the Christopher Nolan-Leonardo DiCaprio mind-bender. "Looks like Prometheus will hit about the same sweet spot, although it is a bit less accessible as an R-rated film instead of PG-13."

    It's got about as much mystery, though.

    Here's a recap of the top 10 all-time midnight debuts, as compiled per Hollywood.com stats:

    1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, $43.5 million
    2. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1, $30.3 million
    3. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, $30 million
    4. The Twilight Saga: New Moon, $26.3 million
    5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, $24 million
    6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, $22.2 million
    7. The Hunger Games, $19.7 million
    8. The Avengers, $18.7 million
    9. The Dark Knight, $18.5 million
    10. Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith, $16.9 million

    PHOTOS: 2012 Summer Movie Guide

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