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‘Madagascar’ fans step right up for circus sequel

Alex Li(voiced by Ben Stiller) GiJaguar (JessicChastain) take trapeze “Madagascar 3.”

Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) and Gia the Jaguar (Jessica Chastain) take on the trapeze in “Madagascar 3.”

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Estimated ticket sales for
Friday through Sunday at North American theaters (in millions):

1. Madagascar 3... $60.4

2. Prometheus $50

3. Snow White... $23

4. Men in Black 3 $13.5

5. The Avengers $10.8

6. ...Marigold Hotel $3.2

7. What to Expect When ... $2.7

8. Battleship $2.3

9. The Dictator $2.2

10. Moonrise Kingdom $1.6

Updated: July 12, 2012 6:13AM

LOS ANGELES — Circus animals and space beasts lifted Hollywood to a huge weekend.

The cuddly critters of “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” led the weekend with a $60.4 million debut domestically, followed by a big opening for director Ridley Scott’s alien saga “Prometheus” at No. 2 with $50 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

“Madagascar 3” was the family favorite for the weekend, reuniting voice stars Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer as the zoo animals continue their travels by joining a circus.

“Madagascar 3” outdid the $47.2 million debut of the 2005 original, though it came in behind the $63.1 million opening of the first sequel, 2008’s “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.”

‘‘Europe’s Most Wanted” had the added benefit of today’s higher ticket prices and a bump from fans who caught 3-D shows, which cost a few dollars more than 2-D screenings.

“Prometheus” — an offshoot of “Alien,” director’s Scott’s 1979 sci-fi horror tale — did big business despite an R rating. Conventional wisdom is that action films should come in with a PG-13 rating to cast the widest net possible for its audience.

“A $50 million weekend disproves that rule, for sure,” said Chris Aronson, head of distribution for the movie’s studio, 20th Century Fox. AP

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