It was not happy travels for The Tourist, and it was definitely not smooth sailing for The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but audiences sat up and took notice of a couple of awards-baiting indies.
The third Narnia finished No. 1 at U.S. and Canadian theaters with an estimated $24.5 million in ticket sales.
That seems like a pretty good performance…until you consider that the movie was predicted by many Hollywood box office watchers (like us) to exceed $40 million this weekend.
Meanwhile, Sony’s The Tourist – which stars Johnny Depp as a heartbroken American shlub who accidentally gets involved in the dangerous dealings of a jet-setting Euro-spy played by Angelina Jolie – finished in second place with $17 million.
Going into the weekend, this expensive $100 million star-driven movie was getting heat from box office pundits for being on a $20 million premiere pace, so $17 mil just ain’t cuttin’ it.
The good news at the box office this weekend came from an awards movie, Relativity’s boxing biopic The Fighter, a David O. Russell-directed film that backed up awesome reviews by taking in an impressive $320,000 playing at four locations in New York and L.A.
With stars Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg both getting Oscar attention – trust me, I saw it Friday, and they both deserve it – distributor Paramount will certainly open this movie up wide to a multiplex near you before Christmas day.
Another specialty movie playing well and expanding across the country, Fox Searchlight and Darren Aronofsky’s edgy film Black Swan took in a solid $3.3 million while opening up in 90 theaters over the weekend.
The sexual thriller, which stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis as fightin’/kissin’ prima ballerinas, will also soon be arriving at movie houses everywhere.
As for Narnia, foreign audiences are still digging this fantasy series, with the third leg making an impressive $81 million in other countries this weekend.
But here in the U.S., we kind of seem to be over it.
In the spring of 2008, the second Narnia movie, a $225 million epic titled Prince Caspian, premiered to $55 million domestically, then dropped off the face of the Earth, declining nearly 60% the following weekend. (The upshot: people who saw it first told friends and family it wasn’t that good.)
Sensing the jig was up on the C.S. Lewis-adapted PG-rated fantasy series, Disney told production partner Walden Media it was through with the expensive-to-make franchise.
But Fox signed on to version 3.0, lowering the budget significantly (this one only cost $145 million to make) and replacing director Adam Adamson with veteran movie-maker Michael Apted.
The result is no disaster. Reviews are mixed, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring Dawn Treader 50% fresh, but real people with real jobs who’ve seen it seem to like it.
Cinemascore -- the firm that asks you how you liked the movie you just saw when you leave the theater -- scored Narnia 3 an “A-minus,” which is pretty good.
But make no mistake, the Narnia series is no longer the blockbuster everyone thought it was after the first film, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, grossed a Harry Potter-esque $745 million worldwide.
Even though The Tourist got a “B” grade from Cinemascore, critics mostly hated it (Rotten Tomatoes currently has the movie at 20% fresh).
The issue, according to rival-studio officials, has to do with casting. While Jolie has proven adept at the spy game -- as evidenced over the summer by the $293.5 million worldwide gross of Salt -- it doesn’t seem to fit Depp nearly as well.
The advice to Depp from box office pundits: stick with the eclectic stuff you know, like Edward Scissorhands, and leave the garden-variety spy thrillers to guys like Matt Damon.
“But the problem may be that he doesn’t have green eyes and a cap on his head or scissors for hands," one studio executive told The Hollywood Reporter. “If you think about it, Depp's most successful roles have always had him playing oddballs.”
Daniel’s Crystal Ball: Monday Edition - How Movies.com box-office predictions matched up with the actual grosses
|Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader ||It Made: $24.5M || We said: $40M|
|The Tourist ||It Made: $17.0M ||We said: $20M|
|Tangled|| It Made: $14.6M ||We said: $13M |
|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 ||It Made: $8.5M ||We Said: $8.0M|
|Unstoppable ||It Made: $3.8M ||We Said: $3.5M |
|Burlesque ||It Made: $3.2M ||We Said: $3.5M|
|Love and Other Drugs ||It Made: $3.0M ||We Said: $3.4M|
|Black Swan ||It Made: $3.3M ||We Said: $3.0M|
|Due Date ||It Made: $2.5M || We Said: $2.5M|
|Megamind ||It Made: $2.5M ||We Said: $2.3M|