Weekend Box Office – ALICE IN WONDERLAND Sets New 3D and Non-Sequel Debut Records with $116.3 Million

     March 7, 2010

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Audiences, still entranced by the Avatar experience, turned up in force for the premiere of Disney’s latest adaptation of Alice in Wonderland this weekend. Tim Burton’s PG-rated take on the Lewis Carroll classic took in an estimated $116.3 million over its first three days – a total well above the initial grosses for James Cameron’s conceptual wonderland.

Title Weekend Total
1 Alice in Wonderland $116,300,000 $116.3
2 Brooklyn’s Finest $13,500,000 $13.5
3 Shutter Island $13,300,000 $95.8
4 Cop Out $9,145,000 $32.3
5 Avatar $7,700,000 $720.1
6 The Crazies $7,016,000 $27.4
7 Percy Jackson $5,100,000 $78
8 Valentine’s Day $4,270,000 $106.4
9 Crazy Heart $3,350,000 $29.5
10 Dear John $2,850,000 $76.6

alice_in_wonderland_triptych_character_poster_mad_hatter_johnny_depp_01.jpgWhen Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs debuted to over $30 million last September, it gave us just a glimpse of where 3D filmmaking was headed in terms of box office receipts. Three months later Avatar hit theatres, on its way to becoming the highest grossing film of all time worldwide and domestically. Now, no one would legitimately argue that the Avatar experience could be duplicated; but with that film’s incredible imagery still fresh in people’s imaginations, it is little wonder that the very next big release to feature the “in 3D” tag would have reaped the benefits of its predecessor’s success.

Alice in Wonderland has now become both the most successful March debut of all-time – surpassing the $70.8 million 300 made in March of 2007 – and the highest grossing debut (Avatar brought in just over $77 million thanks to a particularly nasty East Coast snowstorm, if you recall). Additionally, Alice has become the most successful non-sequel debut release of all-time and it has given director Tim Burton a career-best first weekend; more than doubling the $56 million his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory rang up back in July of 2005.

Of course, Alice in Wonderland has not enjoyed the kind of awestruck, critical-praise that Avatar garnered, despite its admittedly fortuitous intersection of a visionary director, a familiar story with true visual impact and a star with international appeal. Alice will end up turning a nice profit for Disney (even with its reported $200 million price tag) but it won’t be competing in the same ballpark as Avatar in terms of unflagging audience interest. 3D films in general won’t be able to count on the novelty factor for much longer, either. April will give us the next big test of the medium when the epic remake of Clash of the Titans hits.

brooklyns_finest_movie_image_don_cheadle_and_wesley_snipes_.jpgIf the critical reaction to Alice has been mixed, the reaction to the latest urban cop drama from director Antoine Fuqua has been almost hostile. That’s the chance you take when you decide to put the tempting adjective “finest” in your movie’s title, I guess. Despite the obvious verbal joke, Brooklyn’s Finest finished its first weekend with an estimated take of $13.5 million from 1,936 play dates – just a bit below the $17 million Edge of Darkness earned at the end of January. But when you consider that, as an “independent” release, Finest had less muscle behind it than Darkness, the fact that it finished in second-place this weekend has to be seen as a win for Fuqua and Overture Films.

Alice should repeat at number one next week as no new release is positioned to outpace it financially.  And though Alice in Wonderland was a runaway hit with an estimated per screen average of over $31,000, that was not enough to push Avatar out of the top five. In fact, Fox’s behemoth is now down to 2,163 theatres and it is still enjoying averages of over $3,500 per venue. As recently as Thursday Avatar was the number one film in America and Sunday’s estimates pushed it past the $720 million mark domestically. Should Avatar do well at tonight’s Academy Awards it will be interesting to see just what kind of a “bump” the highest-grossing movie of all time can expect at the box office. How much more money can this film be expected to make?  I guess we’ll all find out in a week’s time.

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