First look: ‘Alice in Wonderland’ opens to record-setting $210 million

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Disney discovered an opening weekend in ‘Wonderland’ the likes of which had never been seen before, taking in an eye-popping $210.3 million around the world in its debut.

Director Tim Burton’s 3-D adaptation of the classic fairy tale, starring Johnny Depp, sold a studio-estimated $116.3 million worth of tickets Friday through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada. Even accounting for ticket-price inflation, that’s the biggest-ever opening in the first quarter of the year, easily beating the record of $83.8 million set by ‘The Passion of the Christ’ in 2004.


In the 40 foreign territories where it opened simultaneously, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ collected an additional $94 million. That’s also a record for the biggest foreign opening in the winter or spring, Disney said. The studio estimated that those countries represent about 60% of the movie’s international potential, with major markets such as France and Japan still to come.

Its huge opening more than justifies the approximately $200 million that Disney spent to make the film, including the cost of converting it to 3-D after production. Its performance is sure to accelerate the already rabid interest in Hollywood in making more 3-D movies, as well as for theaters to install more digital 3-D projection systems.

Audiences gave the movie an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore, meaning that word of mouth should be strong despite mixed reviews. With most U.S. students on spring break over the next several weeks, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ should hold on very well at the box office, at least until the next 3-D movie, DreamWorks Animation’s ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ opens on March 26.

Overture Films’ cop drama ‘Brooklyn’s Finest,’ the only other movie to debut this Friday, proved solid counterprogramming, taking in $13.5 million.

(Update, 10:06 p.m.: For more analysis of the opening of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ see this post.)

-- Ben Fritz