Top 10 Film Industry Stories of 2010: #5

Alice Visits Wonderland, Returns With a Billion Dollars

By Kim Hollis

January 28, 2011

No, there's not tea in this teapot.

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Which movie has the largest worldwide box office take, The Dark Knight or Alice in Wonderland? The answer may surprise you.

Although Batman may have been the bigger draw in North America ($533.3 million versus Alice's $334.2 million), when all of the box office receipts across the world were tallied, the Tim Burton-directed 3D tale about the girl who falls down the rabbit hole had accumulated a massive and jaw-dropping $1.024 billion, compared to The Dark Knight's $1.001 billion. Alice in Wonderland became only the sixth film to cross the billion dollar mark, too, which shows you precisely how impressive its performance is.

It's all the more extraordinary when you consider all of the films that Alice in Wonderland beat on its way to becoming the sixth-biggest movie on the all-time worldwide box office list. It has outperformed every Harry Potter film. It has trounced every Star Wars film. Two-thirds of the Lord of the Rings franchise had lower box office totals. Every superhero movie ever made has done worse. Every Pixar film except for one has a lower total.


So, what makes Alice in Wonderland so special when it comes to worldwide audiences (and, to a lesser degree, North American audiences. It made a lot of money here, too.)? Chances are, the answer is not Mia Wasikowska, who portrayed Alice. She was all but unknown at the time she starred in the film, and although she's a little more recognizable thanks to this breakout role and her fine turn in the Academy Award nominated The Kids Are All Right, people across the world weren't dying to see her in anything.

No, the likely answer seems to be Johnny Depp, as fans just seem unable to resist him in these huge, bigger-than-life, blockbuster roles. Depp's face was plastered across every poster and featured prominently in every commercial, and though it's possible that without his presence the film would have still performed solidly, it probably wouldn't have had the same bump. Of course, 3D certainly had a part to play as well. With all of the effects splattered across the movie, at least 3D gave it the appearance of being something special - even if the true end result was something else entirely, as evidenced by its very middling 52% score at RottenTomatoes.

Speaking of Depp, Alice in Wonderland gives the actor two billion dollar films - the other is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which took in a massive $1.06 billion in 2006. Neither of the other two Pirates films made that amount of money, but that's quite a feather in the quirky performer's cap, to be sure.

Alice in Wonderland is also part of another strange configuration in the all-time worldwide performers list. It is one of three films released between December 2009 and June 2010 - a six-month span - that earned over a billion dollars. The first, of course, was Avatar, the big daddy of them all, which had a whopping total of $2.781 billion. Alice came second, followed by Toy Story 3, which actually beats Alice in Wonderland with its $1.063 billion take. Also noteworthy in this little tidbit is the fact that Disney released two of the three films that broke through the barrier. Prior to that six-month span, only four movies had ever crossed the billion dollar threshold, so as we start to see that number be attained by a variety of films, it's looking like that's a really good watermark for out-of-this-world success - at least until ticket prices inflate to the point that it becomes commonplace.



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