SUNDAY 1:30 AM, 5TH UPDATEAny worries about a Summer 2012 domestic box office slump are officially gone. Because overall moviegoing was a whopper weekend: $175M, or +32% from last year.  To Hollywood’s surprise, Prometheus (3,396 theaters) edged Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (4,258 theaters) in a  dog fight for #1 on Friday. But the toon came back with a +8% kiddie bounce on Saturday to end its opening weekend with a fierce $59.6M.  By contrast, the scifi thriller plunged -22% from Friday to Saturday but still ended with a big $49.5M weekend result.

No one least of all Twentieth Century Fox expected its R-rated original playing in less theaters to outgross DreamWorks Animation‘s PG-rated family threequel on opening day. In fact Fox execs kept predicting no more than a $30M-$35M weekend result in a blatant attempt to lower expectations. But Prometheus in North America debuted to an overperforming $3.561M in midnight screenings at 1,368 locations, shooting its Friday gross to $21.4M. The tantalizing combination of Alien‘s Ridley Scott as director and Lost‘s Damon Lindelof as screenwriter, plus Fox’s Avatar-savvy teaser marketing that also kept Prometheus under wraps, really motivated moviegoers. But audiences only bestowed a so-so ‘B’ CinemaScore on Prometheus – because of huge plot holes big enough to drive Mack trucks through. And that did hurt word of mouth just as I predicted and drpped to $16.4M on Saturday. So the film should end the weekend closer to $49M than $50M. Which is stil a solid result for a film the studio claims cost only $125M because of UK tax credits and low CGI costs. (By the way, that ‘R’ rating was blamed on one really gross scene.)

Fox will update overseas numbers later this morning, but the actioner was on fire when it opened internationally a week earlier. Coming into Friday, Prometheus already had amassed $51M from territories that opened last weekend and posted strong opening day numbers out of Australia, Korea and Taiwan.

Audiences loved Madagascar 3 and gave it a straight ‘A’ CinemaScore as usual. And the toon distributed by Paramount took in $20.4M Friday and $22M Saturday to win the weekend with one of DreamWorks’ best results. Toon benefitted from pent-up demand because of the lack of family movies in the marketplace for some time. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted also stampeded out of the gate with early box office results internationally Friday. This weekend the family fare opened in 28 markets, including Russia, China, France, Korea, Brazil, and Mexico day-and-date with the U.S. and Canada. Russia logged the biggest opening day for any animated release ever, distributor Paramount announced today – $3.7M from 881 locations on Thursday. Korea, which was having a national holiday, took in $1.9M from 502 locations on opening day Wednesday. Also that day, France debuted with $1.9M from 685 venues.

As for holdovers, Universal’s Snow White And The Huntsman follows last weekend’s strong opening with another fierce finish while Sony/Columbia’s Men In Black 3 starts its third weekend still in double-digits. I’m told that each film should end their domestic runs with $160M-$165M all-in. As for Marvel’s The Avengers from Disney, the moolah keeps growing. It enters this weekend with $561M domestic and $816.6M foreign for a humongous global cume of $1.3B. It’s now the the #3 film of all time globally (behind only Avatar’s $2.7B and Titanic‘s $2.1B) as well as all time domestically (behind only Avatar‘s $761M and Titanic‘s $659M). It now looks as if Avengers will end up $600M all in domestic. Also, that Lionsgate blockbuster The Hunger Games came into this weekend with a domestic theatrical gross of $399.5M. Sometime today the bestselling book-turned-movie is crossing the $400M mark at the U.S. and Canadian box office. Adding The Avengers and assuming The Dark Knight Rises is a sure thing, this will be the first year where 3 movies end up with over $400 million in North American grosses. Its global cume is near $650M.

Top Ten based on weekend’s estimated North American grosses:

1. Prometheus (Fox) NEW [3,396 Theaters] R
Friday $21.4M, Saturday $16.4M, Weekend $49.5M

2. Madagascar 3 (DreamWorks Anim/Paramount) NEW [4,258 Theaters] PG
Friday $20.4M, Saturday $22M, Weekend $59.6M

3. Snow White & The Huntsman (Universal) Week 2 [3,777 Theaters] PG13
Friday $7.5M, Saturday $9.1M, Weekend $22.9M (-60%), Cume $98.5M

4. Men In Black 3 (Sony) Week 3 [3,792 Theaters] PG13
Friday $4.2M, Saturday $6.1M, Weekend $14.2M, Cume $136.2M

5. The Avengers (Marvel/Disney) Week 6 [3,129 Theaters] PG13
Friday $3.3M, Saturday $4.8M, Weekend $11.2M, Cume $572.3M

6. Best Exotic Marigold (Fox Searchlight) Week 6 [1,298 Theaters] PG13
Friday $925K, Saturday $1.3M, Weekend $3.0M, Cume $30.8M

7. What To Expect When (Lionsgate) Week 4 [2,087 Theaters] PG13
Friday $920K, Saturday $1.1M, Weekend $2.7M, Cume $35.7

8. Battleship (Universal) Week 4 [1,954 Theaters] PG13
Friday $710K, Saturday $925K, Weekend $2.2M, Cume $59.7M

9. The Dictator (Paramount) Week 4 [1,651 Theaters] R
Friday $675K, Saturday $800K, Weekend $2.0M, Cume $55.1M

10. Dark Shadows (Warner Bros) Week 5 [1,550 Theaters] PG13
Friday $410K, Saturday $700K, Weekend $1.5M, Cume $73.9M

FRIDAY 4:30 PM UPDATE:  Rival studios now say Fox’s Prometheus is looking to open with a huge $26M Friday and $68M weekend. That’s rare indeed for an R-rated pic. But Fox, the studio that specializes in lowering expectations, disputes those numbers. “There is no mathematical scenario I know of that we hit $68M. Even at $26M for today, we get to $66.5M – and there is nothing on this green earth that shows us hitting $26M today,” a Fox exec huffed at me. “I could see us doing $22M today which would likely get us to $56M.” No matter, a great result. Meanwhile, DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted also is burning up the box office with a massive $18M Friday and $57M weekend according to current projections.  Prometheus in North America debuted to $3.561M in midnight screenings at 1,368 locations. That’s a $2,603 per-location average. Fox called it “a fantastic start”. The midnight numbers include $1.03M from 294 IMAX theaters.