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The Golden Compass Box Office: Domestic Dud, International Blockbuster

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The Golden Compass movie Dakota Blue Richards Iorek ByrnisonThe Golden Compass movie with Dakota Blue Richards and the Ice Bear Iorek Byrnison: Costly domestic box office bomb, but a blockbuster overseas.
  • The Golden Compass box office: Directed by Chris Weitz, and featuring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, and an Ice Bear named Iorek, this $180 million fantasy adventure has turned out to be a commercial disaster in the domestic market. Outside the U.S. and Canada, however, The Golden Compass has achieved blockbuster status.

The Golden Compass box office: New Line Cinema’s mega-budget fantasy adventure is a major domestic dud

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

According to studio figures found at, Chris Weitz’s handsomely mounted but unenthusiastically received – and, in some quarters, controversial – “anti-theocratic” fantasy adventure The Golden Compass has grossed (updated final cume:) $70.1 million in North America (United States and Canada only). That’s a disastrous figure for a $180 million production, which in the U.S. was released by coproducing company New Line Cinema.

For comparison’s sake: Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures and also budgeted at $180 million, Andrew Adamson’s Christian-tinted 2005 fantasy adventure The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe brought in $291.7 million domestically, in addition to $453.3 million internationally for a worldwide mega-total of $745 million.

The Golden Compass movie cast

Set in a parallel universe in which a young girl travels to the Arctic region to look for kidnapped children, The Golden Compass features Dakota Blue Richards as the intrepid girl, Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours, 2002), Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Sam Elliott, veterans Christopher Lee (Dracula) and Derek Jacobi (The Human Factor), and veteran Oscar nominee Tom Courtenay (Doctor Zhivago, 1965; The Dresser, 1983).

In the voice cast: Oscar nominees Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters, 1998; The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001) and Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, 1996), plus Freddie Highmore, Ian McShane, and Oscar winner Kathy Bates (Misery, 1990) as the hare demon Hester.

Chris Weitz himself was credited for the adaptation of Philip Pullman’s 1995 novel Northern Lights.

International blockbuster

Update: No matter what some in the Catholic Church had to say about it (see “controversial” link in the first paragraph), Chris Weitz’s fantasy adventure The Golden Compass ultimately collected a fantastic $302.1 million internationally. Worldwide total: $372.2 million.

That’s a great global figure, though not enough for the pricy production to get even close to recovering its overall costs at the box office. But take a moment to consider: How deep would The Golden Compass’ hole have been without the eager assistance of international moviegoers?

Top international markets: The United Kingdom/Ireland (a remarkable $53.2 million), Japan ($33.5 million), France ($25.5 million), South Korea (an estimated $23.5 million), Germany ($21.6 million), Spain ($19.2 million), Australia ($13.8 million), Italy ($13.8 million), and Mexico ($10.5 million).

The Golden Compass Box Office: Domestic Dud, International Blockbuster” notes

Unless otherwise noted, “The Golden Compass Box Office: Domestic Dud, International Blockbuster” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety,, etc.).

Comments about The Golden Compass and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).

Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).

Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.

Dakota Blue Richards and the Ice Bear Iorek Byrnison The Golden Compass movie image: New Line Cinema.

The Golden Compass Box Office: Domestic Dud, International Blockbuster” last updated in October 2023.

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