‘Alice’s’ Haul: $116.3M Domestic, $210.3M Global

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Disney Tim Burton-directed 3D adaptation shatters pretty much every first-quarter mark

Culminating what Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane called “one of the greatest theatrical rides I’ve ever been on,” the Tim Burton-directed 3D adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” broke pretty much every first-quarter box-office record there is, while grossing $116.3 million in North America and $210.3 million worldwide, according to studio estimates.
The domestic debut shattered the previous January-March opening benchmark, established in 2004 by “The Passion of the Christ” ($83.3 million). And not only was it the biggest 3D opening of all time, it also took down“Avatar’s” recently set IMAX record, selling out each of the 188 digital 3D outlets on the way to a weekend total of $11.9 million.
"Alice" also enjoyed the highest grossing non-sequel opening ever. It was the biggest start ever for Burton, and the second biggest opening for star Johnny Depp, trailing only 2006’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” ($135.6 million).
The only other film opening wide this weekend was the Overture-distributed, Antoine Fuqua-directed “Brooklyn’s Finest,” which exceeded modest pre-release expectations with a $13.5 three-day gross.
Opening in 3,728 theaters, “Alice” scored tepid reviews — it tallied only a 53 percent “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes — but solid word-of-mouth among movie-goers, registering an “A-minus” rating from research firm CinemaScore.
And for its part, Disney was able to launch an ambitious marketing campaign for the $200 million Johnny Depp film — which included full takeover ads of major metropolitan daily newspapers — with its key marketing personnel still in flux.
Studio chairman Rich Ross still hasn’t named a replacement for former marketing president Jim Gallagher, who stepped down in November.
According to Viane, however, Ross’ edict for “Alice” was to stick with a marketing plan established early on that emphasized the film’s vibrant cinematic images.
“From Rich Ross all the way down, we were all involved,” Viane said. “We kept our eye on the ball with this one — we knew we had something special. We followed the point, even with the switchover.”
Opening simultaneously in over 40 international markets, representing 60 percent of its global release, “Alice” grossed $94 million abroad.
“Alice” enjoyed the biggest Disney opening ever in Russia, Italy, Argentina and Mexico, and it still has yet to debut in Italy, Japan and China.
“It’s three simple things: it’s Tim Burton, it’s Johnny Depp and it’s 3D,” summed up one rival-studio distribution official.
While Disney enjoyed rather astonishing over-indexing based on its pre-release estimates — the studio was reluctant to publicly predict even a $70 million start for “Alice” — Overture also watched “Brooklyn’s Finest” beat out pre-weekend forecast of below $10 million, finishing No. 2 for the weekend.
Not that $10 million or below would have necessarily been a bad thing, given Overture paid less than $3 million to acquire U.S. distribution rights to the $25 million R-rated grit-fest from producer Millennium Films.
“‘Shutter Island’ had two weeks under its belt, ‘The Crazies’ is really more of a genre horror film, and ‘Cop Out’ is more of a comedy, so we were really the only choice out there for serious drama,” said Overture distribution chief Kyle Davies, noting the R-rated holover competition. “The other thing we counted on, which worked, was we got the urban audience.”
With Overture heavily targeting African-Americans, who flocked to Fuqua’s “Training Day,” “Brooklyn’s Finest” garnered a debut audience that was 86 percent non-Caucasian, according to Davies. And among that non-white group, 60 percent were African-Americans.
Coming in with poor reviews (36 percent “fresh”), “Brooklyn”  — an ensemble cop drama starring Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, Richard Gere and Wesley Snipes — is no “Training Day,” which featured Denzel Washington’s powerful Oscar-winning performance.
“But while this was a different movie, you had many of the same elements,” Davies noted. “You have Antoine Fuqua, you have Ethan Hawke, and it’s about cops.”
Meanwhile, among holdovers, Paramount’s Martin Scorsese-directed “Shutter Island” sustained its legs well in weekend three, declining only 41 percent to $13.3 million. The $75 million film’s domestic total now stands at $95.8 million.
Finishing in fourth place, despite losing the bulk of its 3D distribution to “Alice,” Fox’s “Avatar” grossed $7.7 million, dropping only 44 percent. Tonight, the film goes up for Best Picture, as well as eight other Oscars, with more than $720 million in its domestic coffers.
In fifth place in its second weekend, Warner buddy comedy “Cop Out” dropped 50 percent to $9.1 million.
It was followed by Overture horror remake “The Crazies,” which declined 56 percent to $7 million.
Here’s a look at the top 10 at the domestic box office this weekend:
“Alice in Wonderland” ($116.3m)
“Brooklyn’s Finest” ($13.5m)
“Shutter Island” ($13.3m)
“Cop Out” ($9.1m)
“Avatar” ($7.7m)
“The Crazies” ($7.0m)
“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” ($5.1m)
“Valentine’s Day” ($4.3m)
“Crazy Heart” ($3.4m)
“Dear John” ($2.9m)