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Madagascar 2

Paramount Pictures

Better late than never for Hollywood.

At the weekend box office, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was the animated blockbuster Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie never quite became last year, while Role Models was the R-rated comedy hit Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno didn't quite qualify as last week.

The Madagascar sequel ruled with $63.5 million, per studio estimates compiled today by Exhibitor Relations. The raunchy Role Models was a distant but unexpectedly big second with $19.3 million.

In short, it was a good weekend for animals, CGI and otherwise. Some other findings from the first leg of the holiday box office season:

  • Madagascar scored the biggest weekend gross since Dark Knight's $75.2 million in late July. It scored the biggest debut since Dark Knight's crazy $158.4 million bow in mid-July. And it scored the biggest debut for a CGI toon since 2007's The Simpsons Movie.
  • In the sequel tradition, the new Madagascar outgrossed the first weekend of the "old" Madagascar (released in 2005) by 35 percent.
  • The new Madagascar outdid the debut of Bee Movie, last holiday season's lead-off CGI family comedy, by a whopping 67 percent.
  • In addition to Zack and Miri, Seann William Scott and Paul Rudd's Role Models opened bigger than fellow recent R-rated flicks Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the Harold & Kumar sequel and Sex Drive.
  • In its third weekend, High School Musical 3 ($9.3 million) fell to third, but otherwise held up okay (thanks, sing-along version), and pushed its overall gross past $75 million.
  • In its second weekend, Zack and Miri ($6.5 million) held up okay, too, even without the benefit of a, um, er, intimacy-along version.
  • The late Bernie Mac's Soul Men ($5.6 million), co-starring Samuel L. Jackson, opened soft.
  • Beverly Hills Chihuahua ($2.5 million) is mortal, after all. It's also out of the Top 10 after shedding nearly 700 screens.
  • Max Payne ($1.8 million) departed the Top 10 after three weekends. With $38.7 million already in the bank, it should soon wind up in the Top 10 of all-time videogame-movie grossers.
  • Anne Hathaway's Rachel Getting Married ($1.7 million) has grossed $5.6 million overall, without ever playing at as many as 400 theaters.
  • With Barack Obama's election, George W. Bush is officially a lame-duck president, and W. ($1.1 million, per Box Office Mojo) is officially a lame-duck movie. It's stalling at about $25 million overall.
  • JCVD, the Jean-Claude Van Damme art-house flick—seriously—did serious business at two theaters: $23,346.
  • The Auschwitz-set The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas ($255,000 from 17 theaters) was a star—and tearjerker—in limited release.
  • Alexa Vega's slasher/rock musical hybrid, Repo! The Genetic Opera ($51,578), was strong but not stellar at eight theaters.

Here's a recap of the top-grossing weekend films based on Friday-Sunday estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

  1. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, $63.5 million
  2. Role Models, $19.3 million
  3. High School Musical 3: Senior Year, $9.3 million
  4. Changeling, $7.3 million
  5. Zack and Miri Make a Porno, $6.5 million
  6. Soul Men, $5.6 million
  7. Saw V, $4.2 million
  8. The Haunting of Molly Hartley, $3.5 million
  9. The Secret Life of Bees, $3.1 million
  10. Eagle Eye, $2.6 million

(Originally published Nov. 9, 2008 at 12:58 p.m. PT)