'Madagascar,' 'Prometheus' boost B.O. total

The strong weekend turnout for “Prometheus” and “Madagascar 3″ sent the summer domestic box office to date past last year’s total at this time. That summer record could easily fall if the season’s late players deliver on big expectations.

By this time last summer, installments in the “Hangover” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchises had helped the domestic box office reach $1.351 billion. With “The Avengers” ($572 million) “Men in Black 3″ ($135.9) and “Snow White and the Huntsman”($98 million) as a foundation, the combined coin earned last weekend by Fox’s “Prometheus” ($51 million) and “Madagascar 3″ ($60 million) pushed the summer total to $1.38 billion — about 2% faster than last year’s pace, after weeks of lagging just behind.

“I think we’ve got a lot of really good momentum at the box office right now,” said 20th Century Fox domestic distribution prexy Chris Aronson. “I hope that it keeps going because I think there’s really a lot of excellent product for this summer.”

And while “Battleship” and “Dark Shadows” marked two early disappointments, several tentpoles could see 2012 breaking last year’s $4.4 billion high water mark. To beat that number, pics unspooling between now and Sept. 4 — which include Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Ice Age: Continental Drift” — will have to gross more than $3.053 billion combined.

Last season’s two highest-grossing pics — “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II” — drove the domestic box office, grossing $352.4 million and $381 million respectively, through Labor Day Weekend.

Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” earned north of $530 million when it bowed in 2008; if the final Batman trilogy installment (which WB unspools in the same frame as “Potter” last year) earns anywhere near that, it easily cancels out either 2011 pic and then some. Meanwhile Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” opens July 3, playing in the same Fourth of July frame as “Transformers” last year, when it opened at $98 million.

Other summer hopefuls include the next installment of the Bourne franchise, U’s “Bourne Legacy,” a known property with a new star in Jeremy Renner; and same-weekend rival “Total Recall,” which Sony is rebooting with Colin Farrell as its star.

Other summer titles that could buoy the B.O. include Fox’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” Disney’s “Brave,” Lionsgate’s “Madea’s Witness Protection” from Tyler Perry and U’s laffer “Ted.” Universal scored big with “Bridesmaids,” its R-rated summer comedy from 2011, and Perry’s pics are consistent Stateside performers.

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