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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is a billion-dollar movie: why?

Today, Tim Burton’s baroque and pointless adaptation of Alice in Wonderland will cross the $1 billion mark in worldwide box office receipts, as The Hollywood Reporter noted the other day. It’s notable, too, as the first of the billionaire movies to have opened not in the summer season or at Christmastime but in spring. (The top five are Avatar, Titanic, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and The Dark Knight.

I don’t get it. Though premium ticket prices for the 3D and IMAX versions of Alice will have boosted box office in a way that makes it look more popular than it is (adusted for inflation, Alice doesn’t even make the top 100 domestically), a billion bucks is a lot of money.
What’s the global attraction of Burton’s Alice in Wonderland? Is it just the popularity of the book… or at least the name recognition? (I’m sure the vast majority of those who saw the film have never read the book, by an even wider margin than, say, the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films.) While I understand why those top five billion-dollar movies appealed to audiences worldwide, I don’t understand Alice, which seems to me more like an exercise in production design than anything else.

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is a billion-dollar movie: why?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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