North American box office: go ask ‘Alice,’ cuz she’s 10 feet tall

Impossible things:

1. Alice in Wonderland: $116.1 million (NEW)
2. Brooklyn’s Finest: $13.4 million (NEW)
3. Shutter Island: $13.2 million (3rd week; drops 42%)
4. Cop Out: $9.3 million (2nd week; drops 49%)
5. Avatar: $8.1 million

actual numbers, not estimates
This was the biggest March weekend ever, led by Alice, the biggest March opener ever and the sixth biggest opening ever, whenever the weekend. (It also puts Johnny Depp as the best represented star in the top 10 of biggest openings ever, with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest at No. 4 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End at No. 8.) Alice also beat out Avatar for best 3D opening ever.

At the opening-night IMAX showing I attending at NYC’s Lincoln Square, I don’t think I saw a single child: it was all adults, and a surprising number of them in a variety of Wonderland-esque costumes. It’s the experience of only one destination multiplex, but it might suggest that perhaps this movie will play not to children and families but to the same kinds of grownup geeks who have made Avatar the biggest movie ever. I personally cannot imagine sitting through Alice again — I found it thoroughly dull — but I wouldn’t be surprised if Alice continues to break records. (I wouldn’t be surprised, either, if lots of other share my reaction to the movie and it takes a big drop next weekend.)

The Crazies, in its second week, took a steep drop of 56 percent, earning $7.1 million. Still, because it cost an economical $20 million to produce, it has already more than earned that back in North America alone, surpassing $27 million this past weekend. We’re gonna see more movies like this one competing with megaproductions like Alice and Avatar: cheap to produce, with a cast of really good actors rather than movie stars (who can be paid less). This will be, I fear, the only way to battle those movies that must earn $300 million or more worldwide to turn a profit.

And so the movies in the middle will go away. Case in point: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. This past weekend was its fourth, it dropped out of the top five, and its cumulative take is, at this point, a smidge over $78 million… which means it’s going to struggle to earn back its announced budget of $95 million. It has turned a profit globally (takings so far everywhere: almost $174 million) and it will probably surpass $95 million once DVD sales are added in, but it’ll be perceived as underperforming, what with its big names (even if the kiddie audience is unlikely to even know who Liam Neeson Sean Bean and Pierce Brosnan are, anyway) and supposed-to-have-been-surefire Harry Potter-esque themes.

Milestones: Avatar passed $720 million domestically (and $2.6 billion worldwide) this past weekend. The Twilight Saga: New Moon won’t squeak by $300 million in North American, but it has edged just past $296 million, which is about as well as it’s going to do. The Blind Side passed $250 million in North America (it has not been released elsewhere yet); it cost $29 million to make, perhaps bolstering my argument above about smaller movies. Valentine’s Day passed $100 million.

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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Ken Patterson
Tue, Mar 09, 2010 7:39pm

I really saw no reason to sit through Avatar more than once, which you had no problem with doing (even in a blizzard.) So the repeat viewing figure would be hard to predict, even amongst the target audiences.

The real problem with these statistics is it’s dollar based, and really needs to be ticket based – with maybe a tickets per showing average to balance out the stats for length of the film. Since Alice was the highest 3D opening ever, that means it commanded a higher ticket price (even more in IMAX 3D, I believe) So not even a apples to apples comparison to contemporary releases, let alone historical ones.

Scott Lemieux
Tue, Mar 09, 2010 8:38pm

Yeah, Alice really doesn’t look good; anything that gives free reign to Burton’s whimsy, yikes.

Jacilyn Witkowski
Jacilyn Witkowski
Tue, Mar 09, 2010 9:43pm

I don’t think Liam Neeson was in Percy Jackson…

Wed, Mar 10, 2010 12:06am

I meant Sean Bean. Liam Neeson is in *Clash of the Titans,* which is where the kids won’t know who is. Damn, even *Phantom Menace* was a decade ago…

Wed, Mar 10, 2010 3:51am

I tweeted MaryAnn about the Liam Neeson error about five minutes after she posted it. Thought about commenting here too, but then decided I’d wait and see if anyone else pointed it out. Told my mother, who is something of a Sean Bean fan, about it. Hehe, she said that since Sean Bean had so little screen time in Percy Jackson, she didn’t think it was a big deal.

Guess with two Greek god movies coming out so close to each other it was easy for MaryAnn’s brain to swap the two names for the same part. My mother often makes this mistake trying to say the name of one of us kids. She is thinking of one of us, but usually goes through two or three incorrect names before finally saying the right one.