The box office appeared to be an oasis in a parched economic landscape overthe weekend as moviegoers plunked down a record $63.5 million for tickets toParamount/DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar Escape 2 Africa , farexceeding analysts' expectations. The total was also 35 percent ahead of the$47.2 million 3-day debut of the original Madagascar over MemorialDay weekend in 2005 and just ahead of its $61-million gross over thefour-day holiday period. Equally surprising was the $19.3-million premiereof the Universal Pictures comedy Role Models . It, too, surpassedanalysts' expectations. However, the only other new film, the WeinsteinCo.'s Soul Men , opened with just $5.6 million -- on the low end ofexpectations. With the two top films leading the way, the box office woundup with $128.8 million for the top 12 films, 32 percent above the comparableweekend a year ago. In an interview with today's (Monday) Los AngelesTimes , Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media byNumbers, remarked, "The economy may be in a recession, but this proves thatwhen the kids want to go see a movie, their parents will pay."

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled byMusic by Numbers 1. Madagascar Escape 2 Africa, $63.5million; 2. Role Models , $19.3 million; 3. High School Musical 3 Senior Year, $9.3 million; 4. Changeling, $7.3 million; 5. Zack and Miri Make a Porno, $6.5 million; 6. Soul Men , $5.6million; 7. Saw V , $4.2 million; 8. The Haunting of MollyHartley, $3.5 million; 9. The Secret Life of Bees , $3.1 million;10. Eagle Eye , $2.6 million.