June 8 (Bloomberg) -- DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.’s “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” buoyed by social media, has a shot at the weekend’s box office crown over News Corp.’s “Prometheus,” the sci-fi epic favored by most analysts.
Fizziology, a box-office researcher that lists Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Co. as clients, is giving “Madagascar 3” a slight edge over the R-rated “Prometheus” from director Ridley Scott. Most forecasters, including Boxoffice.com, give the weekend to “Prometheus.”
“Madagascar 3” is benefiting from message traffic on Facebook and Twitter, TV and Web ads, and the popularity of a Nickelodeon program based on the film’s penguin characters, Fizziology co-founder Ben Carlson said. Shares of DreamWorks Animation often react after opening weekends because the studio releases just two or three movies a year.
“We see a lot of positive social conversation around ‘Madagascar 3,’” Carlson said in an interview. “The box-office landscape is a little more starved for an animated family movie.”
DreamWorks Animation, based in Glendale, California, fell 7.8 percent on Oct. 31 and 12 percent over two days after the lower-than-expected debut of “Puss in Boots.” The film collected $34 million in domestic ticket sales its opening weekend, less than the $42 million predicted by BoxOffice.com.
Fizziology is forecasting opening-weekend sales of $50 million to $53 million for “Madagascar 3.” The company’s forecast for “Prometheus,” from News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox, is for $46 million to $50 million.
Box Office.com, another forecaster that monitors social media, also predicts a close race, estimating $51 million for “Prometheus” and $49 million for “Madagascar 3.” Boxofficeguru.com puts the opening totals at $47 million for Scott’s movie and $45 million for “Madagascar.” Tony Wible, an analyst for Janney Montgomery Scott, estimated as much as $55 million for “Madagascar 3” in a May 18 note to investors.
Shannon Olivas, a spokeswoman for DreamWorks Animation, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. DreamWorks Animation, which has risen 8.5 percent this year, added 0.1 percent to $18.01 at the close in New York.
“Madagascar 3,” the first big animated feature of the summer, is about a group of animals trying to return to their homes at New York’s Central Park Zoo. The picture faces little competition for family audiences until “Brave,” from Disney’s Pixar, opens on June 22.
The movie earned 74 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, which tracks movie critics. Audience reaction was 86 percent favorable. “Madagascar” is “silly enough for young kids, but boasts enough surprising smarts to engage parents along the way,” according to the website.
“Madagascar 3” features the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen. In addition to the penguins, Web comments have focus on Rock’s rendition of “Afro Circus,” sung to the tune of traditional circus music, said Carlson, whose company is based in Indianapolis.
Most of the major studios, including “Prometheus” distributor Fox, are part of larger media corporations whose shares react less to opening weekend ticket sales.
Disney rose 0.2 percent on March 12, the first trading day after the U.S. release of “John Carter,” the cinematic flop that led to a quarterly loss at the company’s film studio.
“Madagascar” and “Prometheus,” both being shown in 3-D, will appeal to different audiences.
“Prometheus” is based in part on Scott’s 1979 science-fiction horror film “Alien,” about a reptilian creature that uses its victims as hosts for its young. Critics’ responses to the films have been similar, with approval ratings of 74 percent at Rottentomatoes.com.
“They’re such different movies, it’s not necessarily a competition,” Carlson said. “‘Prometheus’ is also a strong performer in its own way.”
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