Weekend Report: Moviegoers Mad About ‘Alice’

Audiences clamored to see Alice in Wonderland (2010) as if they were late for an important date, delivering a $116.1 million opening weekend. That's more in just three days than the total gross of any other 2010 release. Alice's corpulent start drove the highest-grossing March weekend ever: overall business boomed 69 percent over the same timeframe last year, when Watchmen debuted.

Showing on approximately 7,400 screens at 3,728 sites, Alice in Wonderland's opening stands as not only the all time biggest for the month of March, but as the highest-grossing ever for a movie released outside of May, July or November and sixth overall. It's a career best for director Tim Burton, surpassing Planet of the Apes (2001)'s $68.5 million, and second best for top-billed actor Johnny Depp, behind the second Pirates of the Caribbean. Alice marks the seventh collaboration between Mr. Burton and Mr. Depp, and its debut handily eclipsed their previous high together, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ($56.2 million).

Around 70 percent or over $80 million of Alice in Wonderland's opening was viewed through the 3D looking glass, topping Avatar's $55 million as the biggest 3D launch ever. Alice played at a record 2,251 3D sites, compared to Avatar's 2,038. Alice also set a new opening milestone for IMAX, grossing an estimated $11.9 million at 188 sites (included in the totals). The previous benchmark was Avatar's $9.5 million at 178 sites. Combined, the 3D and IMAX ticket premiums over normal prices appear to have added about $22 million to Alice's gross.

To hit $116.1 million out-of-the-gate, Alice in Wonderland benefitted from a combination of factors, including the involvement of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, who are among Hollywood's few bankable name talents, batting in their quirky wheelhouse, and the good will built up by Avatar for 3D events. Distributor Walt Disney Pictures' marketing campaign was not only omnipresent but spot on in its presentation: it first grabbed people's attention with a flashy entre into Wonderland through Mad Hatter, Red Queen and other wacky characters, then it lured audiences further by grounding the fantasy with Alice and presenting her adventure story.

All told, Alice in Wonderland appealed well beyond the family crowd suggested by its Disney branding and Lewis Caroll's famous literary source. According to Disney's exit polling, 39 percent of the audience was parents and their children, while 36 percent was couples. The basic gender and age demographics came in at 55 percent female and 54 percent under 25 years old.

Also debuting, Brooklyn's Finest had a slightly above average start for a dirty cop movie, taking in $13.4 million on around 2,300 screens at 1,936 sites. That was in the same range as Street Kings and 16 Blocks, albeit not in the same league as Training Day. Distributor Overture Films' research indicated that 60 percent of the audience was aged 30 years and older, 52 percent was female, 60 percent was black and 14 percent was white.

The last two weekends' top movie, Shutter Island, continued about its business, seemingly unfazed. Slowing 41 percent, it nabbed $13.2 million and increasing its total to $95.8 million in 17 days, which was more than any previous Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio movie through the same point. Cop Out slipped 49 percent in its second weekend, bagging $9.3 million for a $32.5 million total in ten days, while The Crazies retreated 56 percent to $7.1 million for a $27.5 million tally in ten days. Both drops were within genre norms.

Avatar weathered the storm of losing most of its 3D screens to Alice in Wonderland. Though it had its steepest fall yet, down 41 percent, it posted the third highest-grossing 12th weekend ever (behind Titanic and Home Alone). It made $8.1 million, lifting its incredible total to $720.6 million in 80 days.

In milestone news, The Blind Side marched past the $250 million mark on Saturday, its 107th day of release. It was already the highest-grossing sports drama ever, and it had a decent uptick over the weekend, making $1.3 million. Crazy Heart, though, had the biggest jump among nationwide releases, up 35 percent to $3.3 million and growing its total to $29.5 million, while The Ghost Writer had a decent expansion: at 147 sites, it grossed $1.3 million for a $2.6 million tally in 17 days of limited release.

At the foreign box office, shiny and new Alice in Wonderland unseated reigning stalwart Avatar, debuting to an estimated $94 million from 40 territories or around 60 percent of the overseas market. Add in the domestic take, and Alice's worldwide weekend was an estimated $210.1 million, ranking as the 14th biggest worldwide launch ever. The United Kingdom was Alice's top foreign market with an estimated $16.8 million (the highest non-sequel start ever there), followed by Italy ($13.9 million, also a non-sequel record), Russia ($12.3 million) and Australia ($9.2 million). Meanwhile, Avatar was off 42 percent, generating $22.8 million and bringing its total to $1.88 billion.

Last Weekend

'Shutter Island' Hangs On

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2009 - 'Watchmen' Rages in the Top Spot

• 2008 - '10,000 B.C.' Dominates Weak Period

• 2007 - 'Wild Hogs' Easily Ride to the Top

• 2007 - Hordes Drive '300' to Record

• 2006 - 'Madea' Clocks '16 Blocks'

• 2005 - 'Pacifier' Packs Them In

Related Charts

Weekend Box Office Results

• All Time Opening Weekends

• All Time Spring Opening Weekends

• Fantasy Opening Weekends

• All Time Worldwide Openings

All Time 12th Weekends

• All Time Grosses (Domestic)

• All Time Grosses (Worldwide)