Monday, March 08, 2010

Oscars? Let's Talk Alice

The giant opening weekend for Alice in Wonderland ($116M) shows you that studio execs aren't stoopid for making pre-existing properties. For all the records Avatar broke, one of the most interesting was "Biggest opening weekend for an original property." Even with all the hype and all the ad support and fanboy love, etc, etc, Avatar could only do $77M. That's saying something.

Second, is it just me, or is the Oscar weekend becoming a pretty good box office weekend? I'm not going to go through the charts, but I think Watchmen, 300, Bringing Down the House, and maybe Pink Panther all did very good business right around this time. One of the real changes we're seeing in the industry is that in the bad, old days (even into the late 1990s) to open wide you had to be in the summer or December. Execs have figured out how to create a summer-like opening weekend any weekend of the year.

Third, Depp is a big movie star and everything, but I'm struck by how very, very many pre-existing properties he's starred in. All of his biggest hits are pre-solds (Alice, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Pirates, etc.). When he makes a movie that's original (let's count Public Enemies even though it was based on a book based on a true story), it doesn't open all that big.

Fourth, is $100M the new $50M for opening weekends? It looks that way. Before 2002, a $100M weekend was thought to be theoretically possible, but practically almost impossible. After all, if The Phantom Menace--the most hyped movie ever created--could only do $65M in three days, it was going to take a lot of ticket inflation to get a picture over the $100M hump. 

Since Spider-Man broke the century mark, 13 other movies have done it.


Phil said...

Does Pirates really count as a pre-existing property (the sequels do, obviously, but I mean the original)? Sure, there was a Disney theme park ride, but is that really the sort of thing that has a big built-in audience?

Sonny Bunch said...

I don't think you can slag on the performance of Public Enemies too hard, given the fact that it was a R-rated period piece (not typically box office bonanza material). Dragging that picture to the $100M mark was a not-insignificant accomplishment, even if it had two "stars" in it. (For the record: I'm not convinced that Bale can carry a movie on his own. Bale's track record is like Depp's, only much more so.) And as Phil says, I don't know that "Curse of the Black Pearl" counts as a preexisting property...certainly not in the same way that "Alice in Wonderland" or "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory do."