HUMANS ESCAPE 2 THE MOVIES

Hordes of humans stampeded the box office to welcome the weekend arrival of the animated animals in Paramount/DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. They plunked down $63.11 million for tickets, an extraordinary figure, given the fact that a large proportion of that figure represented discounted children's prices. The figure was well above analysts' predictions and eclipsed the $43.2-million 3-day opening for the original Madagascar over the Memorial Day weekend in 2005. Equally surprising was the tally for Universal's Role Models, which took in $19.16 million. But a third newcomer, MGM's musical comedy (sort of) Soul Men, hit a clunker with just $5.40 million. Nevertheless, the success of the new Madagascar and Role Models,along with the continued success of High School Musical 3: Senior Year helped boost the box office 30.58 percent above the comparable weekend last year to a total of $127.69 million.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Paramount, $631,065,89, (New); 2. Role Models, Universal, $19,167,085, (New); 3. High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Disney, $9,159,523, 3 Wks. ($75,573,993); 4. Changeling, Universal, $7,252,940, 3 Wks. ($20,559,497); 5. Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Weinstein Co. $6,274,530, 2 Wks. ($20,686,907); 6. Soul Men, MGM, $5,401,615, (New); 7. Saw V, Lionsgate, $4,067,071, 3 Wks. ($52,187,337); 8. The Haunting of Molly Hartley, Freestyle Releasing, $3,318,694, 2 Wks. ($10,063,348); 9. The Secret Life of Bees, Fox Searchlight, $3,089,467, 4 Wks. ($29,902,363); 10. Eagle Eye, DreamWorks/Paramount, $2,541,602, 7 Wks. ($96,348,829).

MEDIATOR TO MEET WITH PRODUCERS AGAIN

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has agreed to meet with federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez again on Thursday, Daily Variety reported today (Tuesday). The trade publication noted however that it was "still unclear if Gonzalez will be able to persuade both [the Screen Actors Guild] and the AMPTP that it's worth giving formal bargaining another try." Other industry observers have also noted that each side appears to have dug in their heels firmly on the issue of new media compensation with little or no room to maneuver. If negotiations between the two sides do resume, the earliest they could take place would be November 20, since the AMPTP has scheduled talks with the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) through November 19.

NEAR-RIOT OVER TEEN HEARTTHROB IN SAN FRANCISCO

A near-riot broke out at a mall in San Francisco Monday when an estimated 3,000 teenagers jammed the corridors for an autograph-signing session with 22-year-old actor Robert Pattinson. Police were summoned to the Stonestown Galleria after receiving telephone complaints that the crowd of teens -- some of whom had traveled hundreds of miles to see the young heartthrob -- had become so large that some were being crushed against mall windows. The autograph session had been scheduled to begin at the Hot Topics store at 6:00 p.m. with an estimated 300 fans expected to show up, but a large crowd had already gathered at the mall's entrance before it opened in the morning. The event was subsequently canceled. The incident, however, appeared to lend support to predictions that the forthcoming movie Twilight, which stars Pattinson, will become an enormous blockbuster when it is released on November 21.

TICKET SALES UP; POPCORN DOWN

Ticket sales may not have been affected by the current economic downturn but concessions are likely to take a big hit, the Hollywood Reporter noted today (Tuesday), citing quarterly reports from Carmike Cinemas and Cinemark Holdings filed on Monday. Carmike said that in its most recent quarter concession revenue was down 8.3 percent while Cinemark said that it was down 4.7 percent in its U.S. operations. Each company forecast solid fourth quarter results, however. Cinemark CEO Alan Stock observed, "As we head into the fourth quarter, the domestic industry's box office was up approximately 17 percent for the month of October, and we feel consumers will continue to seek affordable entertainment options during these challenging economic times."