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Weekend Box Office Review: Alice in Wonderland Retains Top Spot, Avatar Will Not Die

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As expected, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland retained the top spot over the weekend. What was not as likely was that the film would drop just 46.6% in its second weekend, grossing $62 million in its second weekend and ending its tenth day with $208.5 million. Now a 46.6% drop isn't small potatoes, but for a film that opened to over $100 million, it's the third-smallest second weekend drop ever. Shrek 2 dropped 33% in its second three-day weekend and Spider-Man dropped 37%. The fourth-smallest such drop was 47.7% for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so Alice may slip to fourth place when the finals are released. Now when you merely count stand-alone three-day opening weekends that lead to stand-alone three-day second weekends, only Spider-Man had a smaller drop amongst $100 million+ openers. The movie followed the sixth-biggest opening of all-time with the sixth-biggest second weekend of all-time, as well as the second-biggest non-summer second-weekend of all-time (behind Avatar). Point being, while I didn't care for the film, it seems to be doing superb amongst casual moviegoers and kid-friendly demographics.

At $62 million, the second weekend of Tim Burton's fantasy quasi-sequel grossed only about $6 million less than the opening weekend of Burton's previous best weekend, the $68.5 million debut of Planet of the Apes in July 2001. Obviously nine-years of inflation comes into play (the Apes opening would be $92 million in 2010 dollars), but the sheer-staying power of the $200 million fantasy picture is impressive. The pic posted strong weekday numbers and has the tenth-biggest ten-day total of all-time. By the end of next weekend, the film will likely top Burton's $251 million gross for Batman ($479 million adjusted for inflation), and it has an decent shot at reaching $350 million if it can weather the one-two punch of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and losing its 3D and IMAX screens to How to Train Your Dragon over the next two respective weekends. There have been only seven films released outside of the summer to reach $300 million. Two of them are Avatar and Titanic and three of them are Lord of the Rings pictures (the other two are The Passion of the Christ and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), so Alice in Wonderland could find itself in some very special company. Heck, this Spring release may end up topping all of the summer 2010 output, as only a few releases (Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3, Shrek Forever After, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) have a reasonable shot at reaching $300 million+. Numbers like this will not dissuade Burton from doing more 're-imaginings' of whatever famous property next gets the greenlight. Congratulations to the Disney team that produced and marketed this one. Oh wait, they were fired several months ago. Whoops...

Coming in at second place was The Green Zone. The Paul Greengrass-directed and Matt Damon-starring Iraq war thriller opened with $14.5 million. While the picture was marketed as a Jason Bourne spin-off, the movie is more of a fictionalized version of the documentary No End in Sight. The movie only goes into gratuitous action mode in the final reel, which (not coincidentally) is when the otherwise engaging thriller collapses. The marketing campaign was stunningly unexciting and the long-delayed picture had to fight the somewhat unfair label of being a liberal propaganda piece (ie - liberals already know, while conservatives don't want to know). Under normal circumstances, this would be a decent opening for the star-driven action thriller, but, like so many others, Universal thought spending $100 million on this thing was a smart idea. So a $14 million opening and a likely $40-50 million finish becomes a financial bloodbath. This marks Matt Damon's 11th-best opening weekend and his fifth for a non-Bourne/Ocean picture, but when a $100 million picture can't open higher than a Terry Gilliam movie (The Brothers Grimm), you know you've got problems. Again, it's not a bad movie, but it should have cost $40 million or less, end of story.

Third place went to She's Out of My League, which opened with $9.6 million. While some may carp that this R-rated sex comedy should have opened higher, let's remember that the film starred absolutely no one that the general public has heard of. Casting 'the third guy on the left in Knocked Up' isn't going to get you a Judd Apatow-ish $15-30 million opening. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle tried that shtick, and it only opened to $5.4 million despite being the very best comedy of the previous decade. If Paramount spent more than $25 million on this one, they have only themselves to blame, but otherwise they should be fine once DVD money rolls in.

The most oddly high-profile release of the weekend was the romantic drama Remember Me. The film was seen by many as a test of Twilight star Robert Pattinson's draw as a movie star. Of course, if Summit was trying to prop up the numbers by attaching the Twilight Saga: Eclipse trailer to prints of Remember Me, it might have helped if they had NOT released the trailer online the day before the opening. So while some may decry the 'mere' $8.3 million, we must recall that a movie like this wouldn't have made $1.75 if not for what drawing power Pattinson has. Sure Shia Labeouf can open slickly-marketed thrillers like Eagle Eye and Disturbia, but let's see what happens when he has to open a movie all-by himself that doesn't already look particularly appealing.

Besides, as word leaked out about the film's extended-middle finger of an ending, even some of Pattinson's die hard fans apparently decided to stay away. Speaking of females, the gender split was 84/16 on this one. Point being, if he can open Remember Me to $8.3 million all by himself, he may just be a movie star. The last new opener was My Family's Wedding, which debuted with $7.6 million. The star-studded wedding comedy (Lance Gross, America Ferrera, Forest Whitaker, Taye Digs, Regina King, Carlos Mencia, etc) was yet another Fox Searchlight release to open on just over 1500 screens, so the per-screen average of about $4,700 wasn't too terrible. Again, if this one cost what it should have cost, everyone will make out fine.

Among the holdovers, Shutter Island crossed the $100 million mark, dropping 38% in weekend four and ending the weekend with $108 million. It now sits as Scorsese's second-highest domestic grosser of all time. Brooklyn's Finest dropped a massive 67%, which still put the low-budget cop drama over the $21 million mark. This Overture release was obviously a one-weekend wonder, but that's all the picture really needed. Avatar... oh, Avatar. Following the loss of its IMAX and 3D screens last weekend, the picture has actually seen an uptick on the 2D screens over the last week. Sure enough, it dropped just 18% this weekend (after a 43% drop last weekend) despite losing another 445 screens to end its thirteenth weekend with $730 million.
There can be no doubt that the James Cameron opus lost hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide by being forced to abdicate its IMAX and 3D screens prematurely. There has been talk of a 3D/IMAX release this fall after the summer films have died down, possibly with extra footage tossed in. Weekends like this make that seem like a pretty smart move. Oscar or no Oscar, this thing just will not die. Speaking of Oscars, The Hurt Locker celebrated its Best Picture/Best Director victory by shooting up 88% from last weekend. Of course, that still meant a $828,000 weekend gross on 349 screens for a new cumulative total of $15.7 million. For better or worse, it's still the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner in modern times by a huge margin.
And that's about all the news that's fit to print. Join us next weekend when Jennifer Aniston and Gerald Butler re-enact Midnight Run with more sexual tension in The Bounty Hunter. And Universal teams with Forest Whitaker and Jude Law to flagrantly and shamefully rip off Repo: The Genetic Opera with their own Repo Men while Fox gives us an adaptation of the popular kid-lit series Diary of A Wimpy Kid. In limited release, Warner releases Hubble 3D in 40 IMAX screens and Greenburg (the movie Noah Baumbach didn't want Armond White to see) gets three screens, and The Ghost Writer (current total - $4.2 million) finally goes semi-wide to 500 screens. The most closely-watched limited release will be the 225-screen debut of The Runaways, which features Kirsten Stewart and Dakota Fanning as Joan Jett and Cherie Currie respectively.
Scott Mendelson

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