How about that election, huh? Big stuff, folks, big stuff. But now that it’s behind us, let’s move onto much more important things…like the box office! And, yes, hope stirs anew at the multiplex this weekend. I know this because the early totals are in, exit polls have been tallied, and I can now project that Madagascar 2 will win by a landslide, crushing the other new candidates, Role Models and Soul Men.
That said, there’s still time for you to cast your ballot in EW.com’s Fall Box Office Challenge. It’s a great way to exercise your civic duty, to be sure, and you won’t have to wait in line.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Paramount/DreamWorks Animation · PG · 4,056 theaters · NEW
The state of the box office has not been particularly strong for a few weeks now, a fact that’s no doubt related to the national financial downturn and people feeling entertained enough by sitting at home and watching Tina Fey on the HDTV sets they probably shouldn’t have splurged on and will be paying off for the next five years. No, I’m not digressing. What I’m trying to say is that this is the kind of big animated sequel that should attract audiences to the multiplex and goose grosses across the board. The first Madagascar flick opened with $47.2 mil in May 2005, en route to a huge $193.6 mil domestic sum. You can expect a slightly better bow this time around, considering the rise in ticket prices and the fact that kids, well, they rule, in case the recent successes of Beverly Hills Chihuahua and HSM3 didn’t remind you. Madagascar 2‘s debut figure should be the biggest since The Dark Knight‘s record-breaking opening in July, a fitting start to the movies’ end-of-the-year money dash.
Weekend prediction: $52 million
Universal · R · 2,791 theaters · NEW
Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott play misbehaving energy-drink reps who are assigned to mentor younger fellas, including Christopher Mintz-Plasse (a.k.a. Superbad‘s McLovin). Studio execs must have been feeling optimistic about this raw comedy’s prospects after the triumphs of slacker laughers like Superbad, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, and the Adam Sandler canon. But how do they feel now, in light of Zack and Miri‘s mediocre premiere last weekend?
Weekend prediction: $10 million
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Walt Disney · G · 3,464 theaters · 3rd weekend
First, John McCain and Sarah Palin. Now that the tween musical is inching its way out of theaters, we’ll probably start hearing rumors that it’s all a facade and Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens rarely speak, he’s too old to play the part, and she’s a shopaholic.
Weekend prediction: $7 million
MGM/Dimension · R · 2,044 theaters · NEW
This dramedy about a legendary singing duo (Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac) who reunite after decades of estrangement got a sad and unexpected bit of advance publicity last summer when Mac (who also has a voice role in Madagascar 2) and costar Isaac Hayes died a day apart. Some people may be interested in checking out their posthumous performances. Otherwise, it’s hard to see many people dancing to the ticket booths.
Weekend prediction: $6 million
Universal · R · 1,855 theaters · 3rd weekend
Realistically, the only thing that’ll keep the Clint Eastwood–Angelina Jolie thriller alive in theaters is some serious Oscar talk. But judging by the film’s somewhat weak reviews and quickly receding buzz, this once promising movie is on the verge of a flameout. Yep, it may just wind up as the John Edwards of the fall box office campaign.
Weekend prediction: $6 million