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'Alice in Wonderland' Record-Breaking Box Office, Kristen Stewart Indie Disappoints

Alice in Wonderland Mia Wasikowska girl in blue dress white rabbit'Alice in Wonderland' with Mia Wasikowska: Girl in blue dress and white rabbit smash several box office records.

'Alice in Wonderland' smashes box office records

Sunday, March 7, '10, update: Despite wildly mixed reviews, Alice in Wonderland has shattered a number of box office records after grossing $116.3 million this weekend (March 5–7, '10), scoring a fantastic $31,196 per-theater average at 3,728 sites according to official studio estimates. Tim Burton's revamped version of Lewis Carroll's fantasy tale far surpassed the Walt Disney Studios' (official) pre-release expectations, while delivering the best opening weekend to date for a 3D film.

For comparison's sake, James Cameron's Avatar grossed $77 million on its opening weekend in mid-December '09 – though, admittedly, the 3D sci-fi adventure had to contend with a fierce winter storm on the East Coast.

Alice in Wonderland also easily broke the opening weekend record for a March release, previously held by Zack Snyder's 2007 semi-historical extravaganza 300 ($70.8 million), toplining Gerard Butler.

And Burton's 3D fantasy smashed the first quarter's opening weekend record held by Mel Gibson's Feb. '04 religious drama The Passion of the Christ ($83.8 million), featuring Jim Caviezel.

More 'Alice in Wonderland' box office records – but still trailing 'New Moon' weekend debut

There's more: Alice in Wonderland had the biggest opening ever for a non-sequel (not adjusted for inflation) and gave IMAX its best domestic opening ever, $11.9 million, easily beating Avatar's $9.5 million record. (Alice in Wonderland is currently playing at 188 U.S. and Canada IMAX locations.)

And finally, Alice in Wonderland enjoyed the second-highest non-summer opening ever, behind the Kristen Stewart-Robert Pattinson-Taylor Lautner romantic fantasy/adventure The Twilight Saga: New Moon, a 2D release directed by Chris Weitz that earned $142.83 million on its first weekend out in late Nov. '09.

To date (also not adjusted for inflation), the best opening weekend at the North American box office belongs to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, starring Christian Bale as Batman and the then recently deceased Heath Ledger as The Joker. The superhero blockbuster earned $158 million on its first weekend in mid-July '08.

$210 million worldwide debut

Internationally, Alice in Wonderland scored an estimated $94 million in about 40 overseas markets, bringing its worldwide total to a staggering $210.3 million.

That's great news for Disney, which spent anywhere between $200-$250 million on the film according to various sources – not including prints and marketing expenses. Adding to the overall cost was the transfer from 2D to 3D, but that may have been what did the trick. If so, the two upcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movies and the Clash of the Titans remake are in luck.

By the way, Tim Burton's previous best domestic opening had been in 2001, when the poorly received Planet of the Apes reboot starring Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, and Helena Bonham Carter took in $68.5 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Box office records not necessarily attendance records

Now, whether Alice in Wonderland has actually sold more tickets than the the former record-holders mentioned above – excepting fellow 3D'er Avatar – is another matter altogether.

After all, it's still unclear how much of the Disney release's grosses are coming from 3D/IMAX venues, which charge a premium and can inflate revenues by up to 40 percent when compared to 2D movies at regular houses. Besides, film admission prices have gone up on a yearly basis.

Anyhow, the key question now is: How sturdy will be Alice's legs?

'Alice in Wonderland' still tops

Thursday, March 11, update: As expected, Alice in Wonderland has easily remained at the top of the North American box office during the week. On Wed., March 10, Tim Burton's 3D fantasy added another $6.7 million.

Considering that Alice in Wonderland is perceived as a kiddie flick, the consistent (10+ percent) weekday box office decreases shouldn't be too surprising. In that regard, Avatar has been performing much more strongly, with minuscule day-to-day changes during the week.

'Alice in Wonderland' cast

With a screenplay adaptation credited to Linda Woolverton, Alice in Wonderland features:

Cast: Mia Wasikowska. Johnny Depp. Helena Bonham Carter. Anne Hathaway. Crispin Glover. Matt Lucas. Marton Csokas.

Jemma Powell. Frances de la Tour. Lindsay Duncan. Tim Pigott-Smith. Geraldine James. Lucy Davenport. Eleanor Tomlinson.

Voice Cast: Michael Sheen. Stephen Fry. Barbara Windsor. Alan Rickman. Paul Whitehouse.

Timothy Spall. Michael Gough. Imelda Staunton. Christopher Lee.

Brooklyn's Finest Richard Gere less than stellar box office'Brooklyn's Finest' with Richard Gere: Less than stellar box office debut.

'Brooklyn's Finest' not so special

Trailing Alice in Wonderland by a wide margin, Antoine Fuqua's Brooklyn's Finest earned $13.5 million over the weekend according to official studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. That's about 10 percent less than early predictions.

The cop drama had a barely passable average for a new release: $6,973 per theater at 1,936 sites – or approximately half the number of locations showing Alice in Wonderland. Bear in mind that the fewer the number of venues, the higher the per-theater average should be. (Admittedly, the 3D factor did inflate quite a bit Alice in Wonderland's per-theater take.)

It's highly unlikely that Brooklyn's Finest, which stars Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, and Wesley Snipes, will be able to recover its modest $25 million budget at the domestic box office. Remember, studios usually get about 50-55 percent of their films' gross.

Update: Box Office Mojo now has the Brooklyn's Finest budget pegged at $17 million. If that's correct – several other online sources have it at $25 million – the Antoine Fuqua-Richard Gere collaboration has a better chance of at least recovering its budget domestically.

'Shutter Island' nears $100 million milestone

Directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island was the no. 3 movie on the domestic box office chart, raking in $13.3 million. That's a solid $4,185 per-theater average on weekend no. 3, following a mid-level 41 percent drop from the previous weekend.

To date, Shutter Island (budget: $80 million) has collected $95.8 million. Also in the cast: Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, and Michelle Williams.

Next in line was Kevin Smith's comedy Cop Out, featuring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, with $9.1 million (down 50 percent) and an unimpressive $2,903 per-theater average on weekend no. 2. The $30-million production has reached a cume of $32.3 million.

Avatar Sam Worthington Na'Vi Sigourney Weaver'Avatar' with Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver in Na'Vi 'gear': Major box office decline.

'Avatar' surprisingly still among Top Five

Although Avatar was expected to no longer be found among the top five grossers in North America this weekend, James Cameron's sci-fier stubbornly held its ground at no. 5, despite a significant 44 percent drop from the previous weekend – its worst to date, now that Alice in Wonderland has taken hold of most 3D/IMAX screens in the U.S. and Canada.

Up for nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, to date Avatar has grossed $720.1 million at the domestic box office. Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and veteran Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Aliens) star.

As an aside … On its final day (Thursday, March 4) in numerous IMAX and 3D theaters across North America, Avatar recovered its position as the no. 1 movie at the box office, barely edging out Shutter Island, which had been the top movie in the U.S. and Canada since its debut on Feb. 19.

Tuesday, March 9, update: Still hanging in there, James Cameron's Avatar pulled in $814,000 at no. 4 on Monday, March 8, despite having fallen below the $1 million-per-day mark.

However, Sunday night's Oscars – Avatar won three statuettes in the technical categories – didn't do much for the film's box office appeal, as the sci-fier lost a large chunk (67 percent) of its weekend business just like the vast majority of the other Top Twelve films.

'The Crazies' leaves audiences apathetic

Breck Eisner's horror flick The Crazies, with Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell, was the no. 6 movie at the domestic box office this weekend, with $7 million (down 56 percent) for a total of $27.4 million.

At no. 7, Chris Columbus' adventure flick Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, starring Logan Lerman, earned $5.1 million (down 47 percent) this weekend and $78 million to date. The Lightning Thief will definitely not get even close to recovering its $95 million price tag at the U.S. and Canada box office.

Garry Marshall's all-star Valentine's Day was no. 8, with $4.2 million (down 53 percent). Thus far, the romantic comedy has earned $106.4 million – or more than double its $52 million production costs. Valentine's Day stars Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts, Jessica Alba, Ashton Kutcher, Anne Hathaway, Taylor Lautner, Eric Dane, Carter Jenkins, Taylor Swift, and many others.

'Crazy Heart' revived

Rounding out the Top Twelve at the weekend box office were:

  • Crazy Heart with $3.3 million (up 36 percent). Total: $29.5 million.
    Dir.: Scott Cooper.
    Cast: Jeff Bridges. Maggie Gyllenhaal.
  • Dear John with $2.8 million (down 41 percent). Total $73.6 million.
    Dir.: Lasse Hallström.
    Cast: Channing Tatum. Amanda Seyfried. Richard Jenkins. Henry Thomas. Cullen Moss.
  • Tooth Fairy with $2.8 million (down 18 percent). Total $56.2 million.
    Dir.: Michael Lembeck.
    Cast: Dwayne Johnson. Ashley Judd. Stephen Merchant. Seth MacFarlane. Chase Ellison. Best Actress Oscar winner Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins, 1964).
  • The Wolfman with $1.6 million (down 62 percent). Total $60.4 million.
    Dir.: Joe Johnston.
    Cast: Benicio Del Toro. Anthony Hopkins.

Tuesday, March 9, update: At no. 7 on Monday, March 8, Jeff Bridges' Crazy Heart earned $377,000. The Oscars for Best Actor and Best Song (T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham's “The Weary Kind”) have clearly boosted the appeal of this drama about a troubled country singer.

Crazy Heart suffered the second smallest drop (51 percent) among Monday's Top Twelve films. The smallest one was that of John Lee Hancock's The Blind Side (43 percent), which earned Sandra Bullock the Best Actress Oscar.

Gone from the Top Twelve this weekend:

  • The John Travolta-Jonathan Rhys Meyers action flick From Paris with Love.
  • The Mel Gibson crime drama Edge of Darkness.
  • The Denzel Washington thriller The Book of Eli.
Kristen Stewart The Yellow Handkerchief surprising box office disappointmentKristen Stewart in 'The Yellow Handkerchief': Surprising box office disappointment despite 'Twilight'-related push.

Kristen Stewart indie disappoints

A new release that I failed to mention in a previous post about the box office performance of arthouse films is Udayan Prasad's The Yellow Handkerchief, which was actually shot a couple of years ago. Starring William Hurt and Maria Bello, the psychological drama received quite a bit of advance publicity because of the presence of Twilight Saga star Kristen Stewart.

Surprisingly, last weekend The Yellow Handkerchief raked in only $37,000 from seven theaters, for a below-par $5,328 average. This weekend, it was down to $29,860 in spite of the addition of nine locations; its per-theater average was a dismal $1,866.

The Yellow Handkerchief, which also features Eddie Redmayne, cost a reported $15.5 million. Needless to say, it'll end up very much in the red.

'New Moon' still shining

March 11 update: Speaking of Kristen Stewart … One day before the teaser trailer for David Slade's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse was released online, New Moon, added another $15,000 to its take.

New Moon, in fact, will still be around when Robert Pattinson's first major non-vampire star vehicle, the Allen Coulter-directed romantic drama Remember Me, opens on Friday. To date, New Moon has grossed $296.3 million.

Besides Pattinson, Remember Me features Pierce Brosnan, Emilie de Ravin, Chris Cooper, Tate Ellington, Peyton List, Ruby Jerins, and Lena Olin.

The Oscars' box office boost?

Regarding the Academy Awards' box office effect, last year Danny Boyle's Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire received a phenomenal boost throughout awards season, especially as a result of its eight Academy Award nominations and subsequent eight wins.

According to figures found at Hollywood.com, Rob Marshall's musical Chicago (2002) collected nearly two-thirds of its grosses and Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby (2004) acquired more than 90 percent of its revenues after they were nominated for, respectively, thirteen and seven Academy Awards.

Obviously, eventual Best Picture winners released earlier in the year – e.g., Joel and Ethan Coen' No Country for Old Men (2007) and Martin Scorsese's The Departed (2006) – benefited less from the Oscar publicity in North America; though in all probability the Oscars helped out overseas, where movies oftentimes open at later dates, and with ancillary revenues (DVDs, pay-per-view, etc.).

It's also important to remember that some of these movies – James Cameron's Titanic, which opened near the end of 1997, comes to mind – would have made tons of money with or without multiple Academy Award nominations/wins.

So, exactly how much the Oscars themselves influence a film's domestic (or international) box office is open to debate. In order to find out for sure, one would have to check whether there was a significant surge following the Oscar announcements, while taking into account the number of theaters screening the film in question.

After all, some movies open in limited release, only to go wide once the Oscar nominations are announced. This year, that was the case with a handful of Oscar nominees, with the Jeff Bridges star vehicle Crazy Heart as the chief benefactor of this distribution strategy.

Alice in Wonderland Helena Bonham Carter Queen of Hearts'Alice in Wonderland' 2010 with Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen of Hearts: Off with the competition's heads.

'Alice in Wonderland' breaks several box office records, 3D-deficient 'Avatar' loses wings

March 6 afternoon update: Alice in Wonderland is the latest record-breaker at the domestic box office, having grossed $41 million on Friday while averaging an outstanding $10,998 per screen at 3,728 sites according to official studio estimates. Though $4 million short from early reports (see further below), Tim Burton's 3D-converted version of Lewis Carroll's fantasy is expected to bring in around $110 million over the weekend.

As foreseen, Avatar dropped out of North America's Top Five on Friday, ranking at no. 6 with only $1.97 million. Among the Top Ten holdovers, James Cameron's sci-fier posted – by far – the smallest increase from the day before, a mere 20 percent.

Despite Oscar weekend and its nine nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, Avatar has suffered badly because Alice in Wonderland now dominates North America's 3D/IMAX screens. 20th Century Fox executives must be fuming, as Avatar had been performing remarkably well on weekends.

'Brooklyn's Finest' anything but

Antoine Fuqua's Brooklyn's Finest took in an estimated $4.72 million on Friday, or about 10 percent less than early predictions while landing at a very distant second place. The cop drama had an okay average of $2,441 per theater, but if business doesn't go up quite a bit on Saturday Brooklyn's Finest will turn out to be Brooklyn's dud. The film stars Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, and Wesley Snipes.

Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer, starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, and Tom Wilkinson, has expanded to 147 screens. Among the top 14 movies listed on the Box Office Mojo chart, the political thriller scored the second highest average of the day: a surprisingly modest $2,653.

'Alice in Wonderland' eviscerates competition

March 6 early morning update: Alice in Wonderland has thoroughly decimated its domestic competition at the Friday, March 5, box office, according to rough, early estimates found at Deadline.com. Tim Burton's 3D revamping of Lewis Carroll's fantasy, scored an estimated $45 million – a staggering amount that easily beat Avatar's opening day take (which was affected by a winter storm that disrupted much of the Eastern U.S.).

Deadline's Nikki Finke estimates that Alice in Wonderland may rake in between $115-$120 million over the weekend – vs. Avatar's $77 million – which would make it both the biggest March release and the biggest 3D debut ever.

'Alice in Wonderland' unceremoniously kicks out 'Avatar'

March 5 update: A teenage girl, a talking cat, a decapitation-obsessed queen with a huge forehead, and a mascara-covered Johnny Depp are supposed to do to Pandora's Na'vi what Avatar's well-armed humans; Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese; the star-studded Valentine's Day cast; and the back-and-forth love letters in Dear John weren't able to do: kick them out for good – from 3D/IMAX theaters in the United States and numerous other countries, that is. And consequently from North America's Top Five weekend box office chart.

Having said that, even at mostly 2D theaters, Avatar may prove itself to be quite resilient. We'll find out in the coming days.

According to Ben Fritz in the Los Angeles Times blog Hero Complex, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is expected to gross anywhere between $75-$90+ million over the weekend. If that truly happens, the 3D fantasy could well surpass Avatar's earnings on its debut weekend in mid-December: $77 million.

Now, whether Mia Wasikowska's Alice will develop legs as long as those of the Na'vi remains to be seen.

 

Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter Alice in Wonderland 2010 images: Disney Enterprises.

Richard Gere Brooklyn's Finest image: Overture Films.

Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington Avatar Na'vi image: WETA / 20th Century Fox.

Kristen Stewart The Yellow Handkerchief image: Samuel Goldwyn Films.

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21 Comments to 'Alice in Wonderland' Record-Breaking Box Office, Kristen Stewart Indie Disappoints

  1. Art Toegemann

    I just saw A in W in IMAX 3D. Hope to see it again. The 3D is put to good use, much better than Avatar. A in W underrated.

  2. Rich

    That's because every one expects it to be good 3d like Avatar. Next week it will plumit with bad word of mouth. The 3d was horrid.

  3. Tony Robertson

    This will not make the people that don't like 3d happy. They are so convinced that 3d will wear thin on people after awhile because it did in the past. The is not totally accurate. In the 1950's the last 3d releases actually did well. Hollywood just got caught up in other things like wide formats and put 3d on the back burner anyway. Imax has always done well with it 3d presentations. I just took hollywood to put 3d on it's major releases to give people that like 3d something to support. They will not tire of 3d like the people that don't like 3d where thinking all along. If you don't like 3d of course you will tire of it, but if you like something you won't tire of it. That is just logical. Not everyone feels that same as you do.

  4. Jordan White

    It's making too much money. Have I become outmoded with my filmmaking?

  5. youyou

    I LOVE ALICE AND WONFDERLAND
    WELL DONE I LOVE THE FIRST ONE ANY WAY I HAVENT SEEN THE SECOND VERSION.

  6. Alice Admirer

    This weekend will be the true test for Alice.

  7. Sandyeddiag

    I just saw Kristen and Taylor on the Oscars giving a presentation. It was a shame. Kristen would not smile at all. She look frowned up and mad. And of all things, she stopped in the middle of her one line and turned her head to “COUGH”!! Taylor looked like he wanted to slap her, he was soooo embarrassed.

    I guess the disappointment of TYH just goes to show that it's actually Robert Pattinson that is carrying the Twilight Saga and not her. I bet Remember Me is going to do just perfect at the box office.

  8. Ashton

    The movie was great! johnny deep is pretty awesome! love the 3D effects. You should watch this one on cinema. But if you don't have the money you can find lots of videos online
    Movie is great! 2 thumbs up!

  9. Kate Delaney

    Yes Jeff, it is really interesting to watch it especially that it was really hyped, publicity here and there. Johnny Depp got good reviews though… but the movie… nothing so special about it, but it is pretty entertaining. Better catch it soon.

  10. Nick M

    This is great! I saw the film on wednesday March the Third. I think it was a very beautiful film. I hope it will break other records too! Go Depp and Burton!

  11. moviekuw

    its great movie, i watch this movie last night,,

  12. Moi

    Omgg I jus saw that movie opening day n it was packed we got there an hour early n we got sidetracked for 5min n then there was the line outside the theatre n wenwe got outther was even a huger line

  13. mh

    True, but it's playing at hundreds of screens in 3D.

  14. Manu

    But Alice is not a real 3D movie they just changed it from 2D to 3D after shooting.

  15. peanuts

    Despite the bad reviews, Alice In Wonderland is doing incredible business. I wonder if Tron Legacy will post an even higher 3D opening in December.

  16. Matt

    I'm not letting you go - you didn't address this - “the TYH average is higher than all movies in the top ten for that weekend except the top 4.”

  17. mh

    @Matt

    Not a prob…

    As I explained in my previous comment, the fewer the # of screens, the higher the per screen average is supposed to be if the movie is successful.

    Two of the top four films that weekend were playing at more than 3,000 screens. The two others were playing at nearly 2,500. TYK was playing at 7 and it was still behind all four.

    Also, “Shutter Island” was on weekend #2. “Avatar” on weekend #11. TYK was on weekend #1 — and was still behind both “Cop Out” and “The Crazies,” neither of which could be considered out-and-out box-office hits.

    Now, let's compare THY to other movies in limited release that weekend:

    THY - $5,328 at 7 screens
    “A Prophet” - $18,197 at 9 screens
    “The Ghost Writer” - $18,350 at 43 screens (2nd weekend)
    “The Art of the Steal” - $13,006 at 3 screens
    “Formosa Betrayed” - $5,155 at 15 screens
    “Ajami” - $4,307 at screens (on weekend #4)

    THY doesn't look so hot then. Neither does “Formosa Betrayed” — though it did almost as much per screen as THY at more than twice the # of screens.

    Meanwhile, you can see that “A Prophet” and especially “The Ghost Writer” are doing excellent business.

  18. kim

    I got the number few days ago. I have to admit that I'm so proud with all support over 3 days in only 7 screens. I just wish it opens in more screens in different states because I really want to go see it.

    By the way, the lady who wrote this piece needs to learn how to do math because this is a very very good number ($5,328/screen)/3 days (7 screen shown only)

  19. Matt

    How was $5,328 per screen “below par” for TYH? In the paragragh just above that you note “The Ghost Writer” only averaged $1,521 per screen. Actually, the TYH average is higher than all movies in the top ten for that weekend except the top 4.

  20. mh

    @Matt

    Good question – perhaps I should have explained myself better.

    THE GHOST WRITER averaged $1,521 per screen on *one day* on a Wednesday at 43 screens. That was the film's 13th day out.

    THE YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF averaged $5,328 per screen over *one weekend* (total amount made over the **three-day** weekend divided by the # of screens) at 7 screens. That was the film's opening weekend.

    The fewer the # of screens, the higher the per screen average — or so it should be if a movie is successful.

    For comparison's sake: on its opening weekend, THE GHOST WRITER averaged more than $40,000 at 4 screens.

  21. elle

    It's sad that TYH didn't do better but i think that just marketing Kristen wasn't the best idea. However, I love Kristen Stewart and I will be seeing the movie next week.