Alice Rules Over Spring Dumping Ground
By John Hamann
March 21, 2010
The middle of March may be bringing greener trees and buds to your neck of the woods, but in Hollywood, early spring brings out only trash. Three new openers are dumped on us this weekend, only a weekend after four films all crashed last weekend, all victims of the latest 3D spectacle, Alice in Wonderland. Dumpees this weekend include The Bounty Hunter with Jennifer Aniston and the unfortunate Gerard Butler, Diary of a Wimpy Kid starring no one, and Repo Men, the futuristic tale with Jude Law and Forest Whitaker.
We've now had 12 weekends of box office in the year 2010, and so far, it's the year of the 3D film, as only four weekends of the year thus far have produced a non-3D film at the top of the box office. This weekend is no different, as for the third consecutive weekend, Alice in Wonderland is the weekend's biggest film. Alice started the weekend at $231.2 million after only 14 days of release, and had amassed a similar amount from overseas cinemas. With How To Train Your Dragon eyeballing those lucrative 3D screens next weekend, Disney was hoping to improve on the 46% drop Alice earned last weekend, when it took in $62.7 million in its second frame. Alice's biggest problem so far has been questionable word-of-mouth, which didn't help last weekend's drop, and certainly didn't prop up the Tim Burton flick this weekend.
I saw Alice last weekend and really liked it, but it looks like I may be in the minority. While still the number one film at the box office, Alice in Wonderland slid heavily again this frame, earning $34.5 million and dropping a large 45%. It had a venue average of $9,229 from 3,739 venues, 11 more than it had last weekend. After seeing Alice last weekend, I did recommend it to my friends, but with a large caveat: I couldn't believe how expensive it was to see Alice, and in the end, didn't consider it "worth it." In my opinion, Alice would have worked just fine as a 2D film, and I wouldn't have had to pay $14.50 to get in the door. My word-of-mouth was positive, but because of the pricing structure with 3D, I didn't think I got value for my money. So, whether I found the film good or not, I didn't find value, and that could be playing a part in Alice's fight against word-of-mouth. Whether I find value or not likely doesn't concern Disney. Their $200 million film has now earned $265.8 million domestically, and is approaching $500 million worldwide.
Finishing in a surprise second spot is Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the movie based on the wildly popular novel for kids by author Jeff Kinney. The 20th Century Fox release earned a surprising $21.8 million from a wider-than-expected theatre count of 3,077. It had a venue average of $7,085. When I saw the trailer for this one I was actually surprised that Fox had greenlit this as a feature, as it had no stars, no effects, and there didn't appear to be any talking animals. Critics didn't seem to care, period, as the review count at RottenTomatoes stood at only 51, with about half of them fresh. No one was interested in this one except the kids, and they came out in force, and may have been one of the reasons why Alice fell so hard again this weekend. The LA Times reports a budget of about $15 million for Wimpy Kid (and estimated the opening at $10 million), so this is likely a rare example of the "one weekend winner" for the studio. Let's see how this one does against Dragon next weekend as well.