Narnia, Tourist Mark Slow Start to Holiday Box Office
By John Hamann
December 12, 2010
After an unusually blah post-Thanksgiving weekend, where the top two films fell an average 60%, the box office was looking to bounce back in a big way this weekend. The openers looked hot: Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in The Tourist, an exotic thriller, and the third part of the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Unfortunately critics said both were cold, uncaring films. Would audiences abandon both for already-in-release fare like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or Disney's Tangled? Or would they take their medicine and chomp down on the unsatisfying openers?
Our number one film is The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; however, with this opening weekend score, the folks at Walden Media and 20th Century Fox will be saying goodbye to a franchise that has under-performed since the second film, Prince Caspian, launched in 2008. First, The Dawn Treader, this weekend's opener, earned a soft $24.5 million from 3,555 venues, and had a venue average of $6,892. It cost $150 million to make (production costs only), so just to match that number, The Dawn Treader is going to need an open-to-domestic multiplier of over 5.0. The last Narnia film, Prince Caspian, opened to $55 million in May of 2008, and came up with only $142 million in domestic receipts, which means it had a multiplier lower than 2.6. That being said, the difference between a May opener and a December opener is all about legs. The first Narnia film, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, opened to $65.5 million over the same weekend as Dawn Treader back in 2005, and finished domestically with $291 million. It had a multiplier of 4.4, but I highly doubt history will repeat itself with this one.
So what happened here? Why is such a loved franchise going into the tank? The main problem with The Chronicles of Narnia is that there isn't a lot of name recognition beyond the first film, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. That name recognition goes down with each release. The next problem is that Walden just hasn't made great films out of the series. This one, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is only 51% fresh at RottenTomatoes, so strong reviews weren't going to breathe life into the franchise. Reviews have always been a problem with this series. The first one did okay, scoring a 76% fresh rating, but I think those of us that have seen it wouldn't consider it to be a home run. The second film, Prince Caspian, came in at 67% fresh, so like the box office, reviews have also shown diminishing returns for the series.
The only good news for the series is that Narnia does work outside of North America. The first film earned $291 million domestically, but it earned $453 million overseas. The second film earned $141 million domestically, and $278 million overseas. This one, thanks to the holiday season, will likely earn $100 million domestically, and probably around $200 million overseas. However, with a $150 million production budget, and a similar amount spent on prints and marketing, this is going to end up a push for those involved. When these kind of amounts are at stake, I think Fox and Walden will take a long hard look before making another one.