Travel was an ongoing theme at the box office this weekend with titles The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Tourist. However, moviegoers weren’t in the mood to get on board, respectively spending $24.5 million and $17 million.
The biggest challenge for Narnia at the box office is the property itself. Sequelitis plummeted the series' third bow well below its previous two installments The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe ($65.6 million) and Prince Caspian ($55 million). The holes in Dawn Treader’s boat are less about switching release dates, targeting the Christian market or Walden Media’s change of global distribution partners (Fox over Disney). The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is by far the most beloved installment in the series ($291.7 million domestic B.O.), and the filmmakers risked the wrath of a devoted global fanbase when they made substantial changes in the story. But clearly, Narnia is no Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.
Rocky seas are ahead for the children’s epic. With the onslaught of family and four-quadrant films---Tron: Legacy, Yogi Bear, and even Fox’s own Gulliver’s Travels-- it will be a miracle if Dawn Treader stays afloat. Critics are split over Dawn Treader, but 80% of Flixster readers adore the movie.
Disney’s decision to release second installment Prince Caspian in May 2008 wasn’t illogical: Warner Bros. and Summit have been respectively playing Potter and Twilight at opposite poles of the calendar in an effort to grab the largest possible audience. But when the domestic cume clicked in at 50% less ($141.6 million) than the first installment, Walden Media wanted its December date back, along with its Christian following.
“The holidays are a time when families go to the movies together, as opposed to dropping the kids off during the summer,” points out CEO David Weil, Anschutz Film Group division of Walden Media, “It’s a co-viewing time of the year and we felt the Narnia stories embody the holiday spirit.” There was also the theory that Christian audiences reacted against Disney’s macho action marketing of Prince Caspian, with its sword-in-your-face one-sheets and fierce taglines such as “Unmask the New Evil.” Hence, similar to the first film, Walden went aggressively after churchgoers in its promo of Dawn Treader, with Fox lot religious leader gatherings, advance screenings and websites tub-thumping the film’s Christian themes. When Lion, Witch was released, a Disney general sales executive wondered whether Christians even made a difference, as the studio was marketing the film to everyone.
This time around, Fox and Walden Media went 50/50 on the $155 million production cost, which was trimmed from Prince Caspian’s extravagant $225 million. The bright side for Dawn Treader: Narnia outperforms domestic overseas, where Lion raked in $453 million and Prince Caspian captured $278 million. The overseas bow was $81 million for Dawn Treader which indicates strong overseas appeal.
56% of the turnout was non-family and 44% family--showing some crossover appeal beyond the family targeting; a very different story from Lion, Witch which skewed heavily towards families. 52% of attendees were over 25, which is similar to Prince Caspian. The audience was 51% female; historically the franchise skews male. The A Cinemascore brings hope for word of mouth.
Meanwhile, award season buzz is heating up for Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan. Darren Aronofsky's psycho-thriller leaped into the top 10 during its second frame with a riveting $37,024 per site average and $3.3 million from 90 concert halls. More at indieWIRE on Black Swan's b.o. uptick and The Fighter's powerful limited debut.
Sony is banking on overseas results for its Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie domestic misstep The Tourist. Nobody spends $100 million on a project with two A-listers to see it wither. Audiences stayed away from Oscar-winning German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's old-fashioned redux of Charade with Depp in the Audrey Hepburn role and Jolie as Cary Grant. They'd prefer to see the high-octane hijinks of, say, Mr & Mrs. Smith. Critics assassinated The Tourist at 20% rotten with top cynics slapping it with a 7% rotten. Audiences were more forgiving with a B Cinemascore. The Tourist won over females (55%) and older crowds at 53%. Graham King is on the hook for financing; Sony tended to marketing/distribution.
Sony’s sexy marketing campaign of alluring one-sheets/trailers and prestigious interviews with the likes of the New York Times and Charlie Rose interviews couldn’t make up for Tourist’s tepid script, the result of multiple drafts by the director, Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes. If Jolie wanted to work with von Donnersmarck so much, she should have jumped on one of his projects instead of this soulless package Sony is placing its chips on foreign (the studio mounted a lavish junket was in Paris, as well as a Euro PR tour). Fox scored with Knight & Day ($185 million overseas to $74 million domestic), which ironically starred Tourist’s original headliner, Tom Cruise.
1.The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Fox/Walden Media): $24.5 million in its first weekend at 3,555 theaters. $6,892 theater average. Domestic total: $24.5 million.
2. The Tourist (Sony): $17 million in its first weekend at 2,756 theaters. $6,168 theater average. Domestic total: $17 million.
3. Tangled (Disney): $14.6 million down 33% in its third weekend at 3,565 theaters. $4,084 theater average. Domestic total: $115.6 million.
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (Warner Bros.): $8.5 million down 50% in its fourth weekend at 3,577 theaters. $2,376 theater average. Domestic total: $257.7 million.
5. Unstoppable (Fox): $3.75 million down 37% in its fifth weekend at 2,967 theaters. $1,264 theater average. Domestic total: $74.3 million.
6. Black Swan (Fox Searchlight): $3.3 million up 129% in its second weekend at 90 theaters. $37,024 theater average. Domestic total: $5.6 million.
7. Burlesque (Sony/Screen Gems): $3.2 million down 48% in its third weekend at 2,876 theaters. $1,113 theater average. Domestic total: $32.6 million.
8. Love and Other Drugs (Fox): $3 million down 47% in its third weekend at 2,240 theaters. $1,339 theater average. Domestic total: $27.6 million.
9. Due Date (Warner Bros.): $2.55 million down 38% in its sixth weekend at 1,990 theaters. $1,279 theater average. Domestic total: $94.9 million.
10. Megamind (Paramount/DreamWorks Animation): $2.51 million down 49% in its sixth weekend at 2,425 theaters. $1,035 theater average. Domestic total $140 million.