LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The third animated "Madagascar" film stampeded past sci-fi thriller "Prometheus" to top U.S. and Canadian box office charts with nearly $60.4 million in ticket sales over the weekend.
"Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" also performed well in its debut in 28 international markets, bringing global ticket sales to $135.8 million in its opening weekend, according to distributor Paramount Pictures.
Anne Globe, chief marketing officer with the film's production company DreamWorks Animation, said the family-friendly movie attracted many young viewers with over a quarter of tickets sold for children under 12 years of age and more than half its total audiences comprised of viewers under 25.
The "Madagascar" franchise about the wacky misadventures of escaped zoo animals has grossed more than $1 billion around the world since the first film debuted in 2005.
Paramount had projected a $45 million U.S. and Canadian opening for "Madagascar 3," and it roundly beat that forecast. But the new sequel's debut fell slightly short of the last "Madagascar" movie, which opened in November 2008 with $63 million from U.S. and Canadian theaters.
Still, it has received more critical praise than the previous two "Madagascar" films, racking up a 76-percent positive rating on critic aggregation site Rottentomatoes.com.
When asked about the possibility of a fourth installment in the series, Globe said DreamWorks was too busy enjoying its current success to give much thought to the future.
"It's too early to tell. There hasn't been a lot of discussion about that," she said.
In the new film, the animal pack joins a European traveling circus to try to get back to New York. Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer provide voices for the lead characters. The 3D movie cost $145 million to make.
In second place, "Prometheus" starring Charlize Theron, pulled in $50 million. The 3D effects-filled film from "Alien" director Ridley Scott tells the story of a team of explorers who discover a clue to the origins of mankind. Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender also star.
Ahead of the weekend, Fox projected a $30 million domestic opening for "Prometheus," which cost $130 million to produce.
Chris Aronson, executive vice president for domestic distribution at Fox, said he was surprised at the film's success.
"It's just blown away our expectations," he said, attributing the performance to "word of mouth (publicity), a great film by Ridley Scott and a terrific (advertising) campaign."
The film also garnered more female viewers than expected, Aronson added, with women filling 43 percent of theater seats.
"Prometheus" opened overseas one week ago and picked up $39.2 million in international markets this weekend. The movie's global total ticket sales now stand at $141.5 million.
Last week's box office winner, action-filled "Snow White and the Huntsman," slipped to third place with $23 million. The dark take on the classic fairy tale, also starring Theron, has pulled in $83.5 million around the world since its debut.
Rounding out the top five on domestic charts were the third "Men in Black" comedy, which took in $13.5 million, and Marvel superhero hit "The Avengers," which brought in $10.8 million.
News Corp unit 20th Century Fox distributed "Prometheus" while "Snow White" was released by Universal Studios, a unit of Comcast Corp. Sony Corp's movie studio released "Men in Black 3," and Walt Disney Co distributed "The Avengers."
(Additional reporting by Andrea; Burzynski, editing by Bob Tourtellotte, Maureen Bavdek and Gary Crosse)