Some real March (Hare) madness for “Alice” box office: $116.3 million estimated!

If anyone out there still remembers my pre-weekend box office post, I was slightly bemused by predictions that Tim Burton and Disney’s spin on the two short pre-surrealist Lewis Carroll novels we know sometimes refer to as “Alice in Wonderland” would make upwards of $75 million. I didn’t doubt it, but I did doubt that the infamously hard to adapt, and emotionally cool (in a good way) stories would have ongoing appeal with the public, even as rejiggered by screenwriter Linda Woolverton. I still wonder about that, but can only be impressed by an estimated $116.3 million weekend estimate being reported by this morning by Box Office Mojo and everyone else.

Just for comparison, “Avatar” debuted with a mere $77 million, though it’s likely the grosses that weekend were depressed somewhat by the huge snowstorm then barreling through the East coast. In any case, the film showed remarkable staying power because on the odd fact that people were actually moved by it as well as being wowed by the visuals.  Still, this is amazingly strong business. As pointed out on the first first of a new series of box office reports by Anne Thompson, the showing of “Alice” is also well north of $102.1 million earned by “Iron Man” on its spectacularly lucrative opening weekend a couple of years back. As for the “why” of it, I think Ms. Thompson put fairly succinctly:

[The massive opening weekend success of “Alice in Wonderland”] proves yet again why studio marketers keep chasing the perfect match: branded family title + proven visual master + global movie star=blockbuster.

I still have my doubts on this having the long-term appeal of an “Avatar,” but we’ll just have to see how it holds up. Also, the accuracy of the estimates could be a hair or two off, given that today is Oscar day and that could make for a much slower than usual Sunday evening. I can say one thing for sure, those hoping for a break from 3-D movies are going to have to hope for a lot longer now.

Moving on to the #2 slot, it’s a long, steep drop from over $106 million to $13.5 million, but “Brooklyn’s Finest” nevertheless proved to be a pleasant surprise for still-newbie studio Overture Films, which managed to beat the still fairly strong “Shutter Island.” People like movie cops.

Richard Gere and Ethan Hawke in

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Just a moment for a quick programming note: In a couple of hours or so, I’ll be experimenting with this crazy new online thing all the kids are doing, and will be live-blogging the 82nd Annual Academy Awards.  Get out out the martinis and, with a little help from the miracle of DVR, we’ll have some bloggy fun. I’m actually thinking about breaking my usual “no cocktails until blogging/writing is finished rule” tonight, so the typos may really be flying!

  

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Go ask “Alice” about weekend box office

Alice in Wonderland

Jolly Carl Diorio is saying it could make $75 million or so. Indeed, there’s no particular reason to doubt that the combination of the name recognition of director Tim Burton, star Johnny Depp, and the enduring, if eternally semi-culty, appeal of Lewis Carroll’s subversive not-at-all-just-for-children literary classic will mean some degree of big dollars at the Oscar weekend box office.

At the same time, I wouldn’t expect “Alice in Wonderland” to haven gigantic lasting power. With a few notable exceptions, weak stories have been the otherwise brilliant Burton’s Achilles heel throughout his career. Moreover, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have never really broken through in film versions in a huge way because of their chaotic, episodic structure. It took the advent of marijuana, LSD, and the Jefferson Airplane to make Disney’s “Alice” a theatrical hit in 1974, 23 years after it’s original release. 3-D is the closest thing our more abstemious age has.

Of course, the new film as written by Linda Woolverton is technically a sequel to original stories and attempts to lay a more coherent structure over Charles Dodgson’s chaotic classics but, judging from the reaction of our own David Medsker and critics overall, the results are mixed. Audiences will come for Burton’s visuals, Depp’s appeal, and the 3-D, but what will they stay for on the second weekend? Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter as dramatic queens won’t hurt, but still.

Don Cheadle and Wesley Snipes are not rural in The fiscal prospect of the week’s other new major release, “Brooklyn’s Finest” seems considerably more modest, though with Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes and Ethan Hawke in the cast it has its share of big name stars. Reportedly filled to overflowing with cop-movie cliches, the R-rated film from director Antoine Fuqua of “Training Day” has left critics unimpressed and jovial Mr. DiOrio doesn’t expect it to break double-digit millions, noting it “tracks best in urban demos” — which I guess either means that African-American filmgoers are somewhat more kindly disposed towards it than, say, Armenian-American filmgoers, or that filmgoers in farming communities aren’t up for it.

  

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