Generating more than $832 million, last month was the highest-grossing March ever, surpassing the $795 million of the previous milestone, March 2007. Business was up ten percent over February and 29 percent over March 2009, thanks to the would-be event picture, Alice in Wonderland, delivering massive returns unlike Watchmen last year. A first quarter gross record was also established: the haul for January, February and March came in at $2.65 billion, up nine percent over 2009 through the same point.
Each weekend in March was led by a 3D-enhanced picture: Alice in Wonderland for the first three and How to Train Your Dragon for the last. The 3D ticket price premium over 2D on Alice, Dragon and others appears to have accounted for more than $70 million of the March total. Combined with the general rise in ticket prices, that means that March 2010 ranks ninth in terms of estimated attendance among the past few decades in which box office has been consistently tracked. March 2002 (when Ice Age played) is the modern champ with an estimated 132 million plus tickets sold, while March 2010's estimate was just under 100 million.
March 2010 was all about Alice in Wonderland and not much else. Never before has a single release dominated March so commandingly: Alice's $299.5 million tally made up 36 percent of the total March box office. The month's second highest-grossing title, How to Train Your Dragon, earned $57.9 million or less than a fifth of Alice. The next biggest March dominator on record was The Passion of the Christ with its 27 percent share in 2004.
Released on Mar. 26, How to Train Your Dragon only had six days of March play, yet it handily outdrew movies that opened earlier in the month, including The Bounty Hunter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. February holdover Shutter Island was third highest-grossing picture of March with $46.1 million, followed by Bounty ($41.6 million), Diary ($39.5 million) and 2009 holdover Avatar ($34.6 million).
Aside from Alice in Wonderland and How to Train Your Dragon, the March slate had a paucity of appealing titles, leading to the top-heaviness. 13 pictures opened or expanded into nationwide release and less than half had any kind of traction. The disappointments included Green Zone ($33.3 million) and Repo Men ($13.2 million), two pictures saddled with historically problematic sub-genres as well as marketing that did not present them in the best light. As usual, no limited or specialty release broke out to pick up the slack, and there were three high profile ones that fell flat: Greenberg, The Runaways and Chloe.
For the quarter (Jan.-Mar.) as a whole, five pictures grossed over $100 million. Avatar remained the top draw, raking in $457.5 million (62 percent of its lifetime haul), followed by Alice in Wonderland, Shutter Island ($121.6 million), Valentine's Day ($109.9 million) and 2009 holdover Sherlock Holmes ($106.4 million or more than half of its lifetime tally).