Inside Pulse Box Office Report: Narnia Treads Lightly, The Tourist Opens Weak

And the winter box office continues to be a downer. The major studios must be going nuts right now, watching the weekend numbers only to discover that nobody is going to the movies. You could point blame at the economy, but we’re fast approaching the one-year anniversary of Avatar‘s arrival in theaters. The movie was so huge that it helped elevate three other pictures to grosses more than $200 million each. You won’t see that this season, I’m afraid. While we still have Tron Legacy, Little Fockers, Yogi Bear, and Gulliver’s Travels still to come, I’m not overly excited. And before you ask, “But Travis, not even Tron Legacy?” Visually it does look impressive, but I’m upset with Walt Disney Pictures for being ashamed of the original Tron. The studio had considered releasing it on Blu-ray to coincide with the release of the sequel that arrives twenty-eight years after the original. But they put the kibosh on the release, fearful that people would laugh at its outdated special effects. That’s not a good enough reason. If anything, the studio should embrace Tron, because it was one of the films that helped John Lasseter see the potential of CGI in cinema, specifically in animated films.

In place of Avatar this year we have the third installment of the Narnia series and a spy romance thriller with little sexual tension. When the first Narnia picture was released it was during the month of December. It was a big hit for Walt Disney Pictures. Two and a half years later the sequel opened in the month of May and was not as successful. Disney would later drop the franchise, to which 20th Century Fox acquired. It seems that Mickey Mouse and Co. played it smart, getting out while the getting was good. Fortunes have changed for Disney after dropping Narnia. It has since inked a distribution deal with DreamWorks Pictures – finally, Touchstone Pictures may be prevalent again! – and acquired Marvel Comics.

After the billion dollar success stories that were Toy Story 3 and Alice in Wonderland, the box office looked to keep pace with 2009. But as it stands now, 2010 will fall far behind. Not even the latest Harry Potter could turn fortunes around. And that’s saying something. Even with a $125 million opening I knew a $300 million domestic total was a long shot. Strong reviews doesn’t translate to strong legs to make it the biggest HP yet. But with close to $800 million worldwide, I don’t think Warner Bros. is upset.

As for the latest Chronicles of Narnia, the third time was definitely not the charm. With the added 3D surcharge, it opened to the tune of $24.5 million. Compare that to the $65 and $55 million opening weekends (sans 3D) for the first two installments in the series. Face it, no film (or series) has been able to capture the magic that The Lord of the Rings trilogy had. Neither Narnia nor The Golden Compass could breakout and carry the same weight as J.R.R. Tolkein’s legendary series. With a PG rating, the intended audience is definitely families, but there’s just too much family entertainment at the megaplex these days. So with everyone competing for the same audience, B.O. numbers are sure to decline around the board.

So what does that say about The Tourist, a film with two A-listers (Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp) that opens in a little more than 2700 theaters? Compared to trailers for Yogi Bear, which I swear I’ve had to endure over 50 times, I saw little promotion for Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s (The Lives of Others) American debut. Surely a picture with a reported budget of $100 million should have had a bigger opening, right? It looks like Sony Pictures didn’t know where they wanted to slot the spy thriller this season and the box office suffered as a result. But believe me when I say that the film will be huge overseas. Jolie and Depp are cinematic royalty there. It’s disappointing that The Tourist is the only adult diversion in theaters at the moment, but that will all change once Paramount Pictures releases The Fighter (goes wide on 12/17) and True Grit (12/22), and Sony tries again with How Do You Know (12/17).

Tangled and Harry Potter continue to drop, but the boy wizard’s freefall is more noticeable. Rapunzel by another name continues to do okay, but at $120 million it’s got a long way to go to match its production budget of $260 million. Unstoppable continues to remain among the top five, but it has only collected $74 million after five weeks.

The only bright spot in the top ten this weekend was the expansion of Black Swan. Last week, it opened on 18 screens and earned $1.4 million. That may not look like it did well, but the opening was the largest ever for a Fox Searchlight release. And when you consider their string of Oscar contenders (Little Miss Sunshine, Juno and Slumdog Millionaire) that’s quite an impressive feat. This week it expanded to ninety theaters and made it all the way to the sixth spot in the top ten, earning $3.3 million. But it does offer food for thought. If Black Swan had a rollout similar to The Tourist and could maintain it’s per-screen average, the film could have made upwards of $105 million this weekend.

Only two new films opened in limited release this weekend. One was The Fighter, which averaged $80k at four locations. Since the release is from a major studio and is a crowdpleaser, it could become a major hit this late in the season. And with Christian Bale and Melissa Leo being praised by numerous critics groups it could mean extra moola in time for Oscars. Julie Taymor‘s The Tempest also premiered this weekend, but only averaged $9k at each location. Oscar hopefuls 127 Hours and The King’s Speech continue to perform well on the smaller circuit. Danny Boyle’s follow-up after winning Best Director has earned a little over $8 million in six weeks. Tom Hopper’s Speech added thirteen locations and earned $592k. If fictional true-life tales aren’t your things, there’s always documentaries like Waiting for “Superman” worth seeing as well.

Box Office Estimates taken from

1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – $24.5 million
2. The Tourist – $17 million
3. Tangled – $14.6 million ($116 million overall)
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – $8.5 million ($777 million worldwide)
5. Unstoppable – $3.8 million ($74 million overall)
6. Black Swan – $3.3 million ($5.6 million overall)
7. Burlesque – $3.2 million ($33 million overall)
8. Love and Other Drugs – $3 million ($28 million overall)
9. Due Date – $2.5 million ($95 million overall)
10. Megamind – $2.5 million ($140 million overall)

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