First look: ‘Dragon’ roars quietly, but crowds light up

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‘How to Train Your Dragon’ opened at the lower end of recent DreamWorks Animation debuts, a particular disappointment given the growing number of digital 3-D locations where it played and rising ticket prices to watch movies at them.

The heavily advertised viking tale, which cost $165 million to produce and was distributed by Paramount Pictures, sold a studio-estimated $43.3 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada this weekend. That’s significantly below the $59.3 million that ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’ opened to on the same weekend last year.

However, audiences gave the movie an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Combined with almost universally positive reviews, DreamWorks and Paramount are hoping that strong word-of-mouth will propel the movie to play well in the coming weeks and ultimately end up a success.

The original ‘Shrek,’ for instance, opened to $42.3 million in 2004 and went on to collect a very strong $267.7 million domestically. However, ‘Dragon’ could also follow the path of such DreamWorks disappointments as ‘Bee Movie’ and ‘Over the Hedge,’ which opened to $38 million and $38.5 million and ended up with $126.6 million and $155 million, respectively.


Ticket sales total in foreign countries, where ‘Dragon’ may have opened stronger and made up for its modest start domestically, weren’t immediately available.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ opened to a soft but not terrible $13.7 million. The R-rated comedy set in the 1980s got an average audience grade of B and cost $36 million to produce.

‘Alice in Wonderland’ was No. 2 on the box office charts, falling a typical 50% to $17.3 million on its fourth weekend as it lost many 3-D screens to ‘Dragon.’

Of last weekend’s new movies, the Jennifer Aniston-Gerard Butler romantic comedy ‘Bounty Hunter’ held on best, falling just 40% to $12.4 million. ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ apparently got beat up by the new family film ‘Dragon,’ dropping 55% to $10 million. ‘Repo Men’ fell 50% to $3 million after its disastrous start.

-- Ben Fritz