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Box office preview: Will 'Alice' be a Wonderland?

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alice-in-wonderlandWhile all of Hollywood is in a tizzy over the upcoming Oscar weekend, most moviegoers are far more interested in following Alice–and Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter–down the rabbit hole. Tim Burton’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland is the first movie to bow in 3-D since Avatar changed the rules of the game. And while Burton’s film has already been criticized for its 2-D to 3-D conversion compared to Avatar’s advanced technological efforts, it’s still set to dominate the weekend in a big way. Almost every other studio has left Burton and Depp alone this frame for what is sure to be the duo’s most successful opening weekend ever. The only other new wide release this weekend is Overture’s 2009 Sundance film Brooklyn’s Finest, which is bowing in more than 1900 theaters. Here’s how we predict these films will fare:

1. Alice in Wonderland: $71 million

Disney pulled out all the stops with its beautiful, eye-catching campaign for Burton’s interpretation of Carroll’s world. Too bad the reviews of the film haven’t been as pleasant. It’s unlikely those reviews will hurt the film’s opening weekend, but if audiences agree, it could lead to a severe drop off for the film’s second week. Also working in the movie’s b.o. favor is its 3-D release. Burton and Depp’s last pairing was 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That movie bowed to $56.2 million in the middle of summer, and this film is likely to outgross it. More expensive 3-D tickets, plus the absence of other kid-friendly films in market could put the PG-rated release into record-breaking territory. Look for it to beat Warner Bros.’s March record-holder, the 2007 $70 million debut of 300.

2. Shutter Island: $11 million

The other daring duo of director/actor pairings, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, has fared quite well in theaters over the past two weeks. The R-rated thriller has already grossed $81 million and is on track to earn another $11 million over the weekend. That’s pretty great for a film that got booted out of its original release date last fall.

3. Brooklyn’s Finest: $10 million

There’s a solid cast to this hard-boiled drama about corrupt police offices. Between Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke and Wesley Snipes it’s not a bad ensemble. But this film from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) has been sitting on a shelf for more than a year. The studio spent a good portion of the time redoing the ending that originally screened at Sundance. How it fares this weekend is a real wild card. Shutter Island is attracting the same audience, and it’s a better movie with some legs still in it. I’ll guess a $10 million debut, but this one could get lost in the mix.

4. Cop Out: $9 million

It’ s the only comedy in theaters, so Cop Out could luck out and only drop 50% its second weekend in theaters. That would be good news for the Kevin Smith film starring Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis, which bowed last frame to dismal reviews and only $18 million in box office receipts. If no one is willing to give the movie a second chance, the R-rated horror film The Crazies could wind up filling this slot.

5. Avatar: $7.5 million

This is the weekend Avatar will see its first real drop in 12 weeks of release. Twentieth Century Fox is amazed they were able to hold on to the 695 3-D screens that will still show their spectacle. Too bad they will still be hurt by IMAX converting its theaters over to Alice in Wonderland. Nonetheless, no one is crying for James Cameron. The guy has racked up over $700 million in domestic grosses and could very well walk away with the Best Picture Oscar this Sunday.

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