The box office appeared to be an oasis in a parched economic landscape over the weekend as moviegoers plunked down a record $63.5 million for tickets to Paramount/DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, far exceeding analysts' expectations. The total was also 35 percent ahead of the $47.2 million 3-day debut of the originalMadagascar over Memorial Day weekend in 2005 and just ahead of its $61-million gross over the four-day holiday period. Equally surprising was the $19.3-million premiere of the Universal Pictures comedy Role Models. It, too, surpassed analysts' expectations. However, the only other new film, the Weinstein Co.'s Soul Men, opened with just $5.6 million -- on the low end of expectations. With the two top films leading the way, the box office wound up with $128.8 million for the top 12 films, 32 percent above the comparable weekend a year ago. In an interview with today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times, Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media by Numbers, remarked, "The economy may be in a recession, but this proves that when the kids want to go see a movie, their parents will pay."

{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Music by Numbers:

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.


Sony, whose stock has been taking a beating in recent weeks as consumer demand for its consumer electronics items slackens and as the dollar rises against the yen, is hoping that next weekend's domestic debut of the latest James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, will offset some of the bad news. "I don't want to predict what will happen in the U. S., Michael Lynton, chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment, told the London Financial Times."But in these difficult economic times it's nice to have a hit and the film certainly worked in the U.K. and elsewhere." Lynton was referring to the record opening of the movie in the U.K. two weeks ago and strong openings in India and China as well. (The film took in $106.5 million over this past weekend, the second largest international take of 2008, according to Daily Variety.) Lynton added, "It's profitable for the studio, which means it's profitable for Sony Corp." He also noted that the film's success could boost company morale.


MGM will begin testing the Internet waters in a deal with YouTube that allows the online video site to stream certain older films and TV shows in their entirety in exchange for MGM'S participation in advertising revenue. It will also post short clips from other movies. However, the most valuable movies in the MGM collection, the James Bond flicks, are specifically excluded from the deal. (So, too are most MGM classics produced prior to 1986, which are currently owned by Warner Home Video.) Until recently, YouTube had limited the length of clips available on its site to 10 minutes.


The Dark Knight will be the first million-disc Blu-ray release, Video Businessreported on its website Friday, noting that just last year -- in March 2007 -- Sony set a record when it shipped 100,000 Blu-ray copies of Casino Royale.Many of the Dark Knightdiscs, the trade publication said, will be bundled with hardware, including Blu-ray players and game devices. "If a household is on the fence about making a Blu-ray player or PS3 purchase, this title can be influential in making that happen," Warner Home Video's Dorinda Marticorena told Video Business. The Los Angeles Timesreported on Friday that several major studios and consumer electronics firms plan to spend $25 million during the holiday season as part of their "Tru Blu" campaign to promote Blu-ray releases.