Consider this weekend a study of three animation companies. Temporarily forget about ‘The Amazing Spider-Man‘ and ‘Ted‘ and ‘Moonrise Kingdom.’ What do the box office numbers of ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift,’ ‘Brave‘ and ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted‘ tell us about their respective studios? ‘Ice Age’ won the weekend, but is it actually a winner?

FilmWeekendPer ScreenTotal
1 Ice Age: Continental Drift

$46,000,000$11,853 $46,000,000
2The Amazing Spider-Man $35,000,000 (-43.6%)$8,106 $200,900,000
3Ted$22,147,000 (-31.2%)$6,705$158,993,000
4Brave $10,695,000 (-45.5%)$3,153 $195,596,000
5Magic Mike $9,030,000 (-42.3%)$2,922 $91,850,000
6Savages $8,735,000 (-45.5%)$3,315 $31,466,000
7Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection $5,600,000 (-45.0%)$2,794$55,628,000
8Katy Perry: Part of Me $3,735,000 (-47.7%)$1,367 $18,588,000
9Moonrise Kingdom$3,662,000 (-19.0%)$3,963$32,427,000
10Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted$3,500,000 (-53.5%)$1,532$203,732,000

The $46 million opening for the fourth (!) ‘Ice Age’ movie is a tough nut to examine. The first film opened to nearly identical numbers ten years ago (!!), but the sequel opened to $68 million four years later. The third film opened to a series low of $41 million three years ago. Now, here we are, back where we started. We could call this consistency, but we could also call this “diminishing returns masked by inflation and rising ticket prices.” Each of these things has ended up somewhere around the $200 million mark (but never quite cracking it), so we’ll have to see where this one lands. If it cracks the big 200, expect an ‘Ice Age 5: We Survive Despite Science!’ in 2015.

Compare this to ‘Madagascar 3,’ which crossed that $200 million mark this weekend and is juuust about ready to finish its theatrical run. This series traditionally opens bigger than the ‘Ice Age’ movies, but both of them tend to end up finishing within spitting distance of each other. Those larger openings (and we’re talking a difference of $15-20 million here) have given the ‘Madagascar’ series a financial luster that ‘Ice Age’ can’t obtain. Even if ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ has the legs of its predecessors and reaches $200 million, it’ll still live in the shadow of Dreamworks.

However, both ‘Ice Age’ and ‘Madagascar’ live in the shadow of Pixar, whose ‘Brave’ came very close to passing $200 million this weekend. It’s going to effortlessly outgross those two, settle somewhere around $250 million and be considered a “lesser” financial success for Pixar, a company that has seen their films reach $300 million several times.

In short: a series high for ‘Madagascar’ is chump change to Pixar and the ‘Ice Age’ series is nothing if not oddly consistent.

But let’s move on to the other movies in the room, shall we? Once again, there were three actual champions in the line-up: ‘Ted’ (which barely dipped, grossed another $22 million and is well on its way to $200 million), ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ (which once again held onto to its position while other films entered and exited around it) and ‘Magic Mike‘ (which will break $100 million next week on a budget of $7 million). At the end of the day, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ will outgross them all, but in terms of investment and return, these three are up there with ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ in terms of the most successful films of 2012.

And speaking of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’…it’s doing okay. It took the expected stumble from last weekend, but that $35 million take makes it the third film to taste $200 million this weekend. It may have had a shot at $300 million if ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘ wasn’t literally right around the corner, but yeah…it’s going to get crushed next week. It’ll settle down around $250 and Sony will be happy to have a number that isn’t a complete and total embarrassment while they retreat to lick their wounds and plot a better sequel.

Of course, this weekend was just the buffer zone before the Batman storm. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is the only 2012 release that has the potential to match ‘The Avengers’ in a war of the numbers. It’s going to get bloody, folks. See you next week.

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