Image Credit: Phil BrayWell, that didn’t go as planned. Two high-profile films, the 3-D fantasy epic The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and the romantic thriller The Tourist, registered inauspicious openings as the overall box office trailed last year for the fifth weekend in a row. Fox’s Dawn Treader, the third film in the franchise based on C.S. Lewis’ beloved children’s novels, led the frame with $24.5 million, according to studio estimates. That’s a disappointing opening for a series whose first two entries, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, debuted to $65.6 million and $55 million, respectively. Dawn Treader‘s opening gross puts it in a league that includes such other fantasy clunkers as Eragon and The Golden Compass.
While box-office prognosticators were predicting a decline from prior Narnia movies, no one foresaw Dawn Treader stumbling this much. It’s hard to decipher what went wrong. According to a rep for a rival studio, Fox’s marketing sold the $140 million movie as more of the same, instead of as a fresh take on the Narnia universe. But the film’s outlook may not be as dreary as it initially seems. For one thing, Dawn Treader scored an encouraging “A-” from CinemaScore audiences. And with the approaching holiday season, Fox is quick to point out that the film is positioned for a marathon — not a sprint. “Its best days are ahead of us,” says a studio rep.
The Tourist arrived via a Venetian gondola instead of a speeding water taxi. Despite the star presence of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, this remake of the 2005 French movie Anthony Zimmer opened to a modest $17 million. With a budget north of $100 million, Sony now must hope the PG-13 thriller performs significantly better overseas. In third place, Disney’s animated musical Tangled slipped only 33 percent for $14.6 million, bringing its domestic total to $115.6 million. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 didn’t hold up as well, dropping 50 percent for $8.5 million. The PG-13 fantasy film has grossed a potent $257.7 million to date, although it trails all other Potter entries in estimated attendance. And the Denzel Washington runaway-train thriller Unstoppable dipped 37 percent for $3.8 million.
While many of the major Hollywood films were floundering, the indie scene thrived this weekend. Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan expanded to 90 theaters and leaped to sixth place with $3.3 million, for an astounding per-theater average of $37,000. The psychological thriller, starring Natalie Portman as the sanest ballerina you’ve ever met, will expand to at least 800 theaters next weekend. And the boxing drama The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, slugged $320,000 from four theaters — that’s an $80,000 per-theater average. Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, however, stirred as much interest in the moviegoing public as the Shakespearean play commonly stirs in ninth-graders. It took in just $45,000 from five theaters.
Check back next weekend as three new films — TRON: Legacy, How Do You Know, and Best Picture-contender Yogi Bear — open nationwide for your consideration.
1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader — $24.5 mil
2. The Tourist — $17 mil
3. Tangled — $14.6 mil
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 — $8.5 mil
5. Unstoppable — $3.8 mil
6. Black Swan — $3.3 mil