Box office: Weak domestic starts for new ‘Narnia,’ Depp and Jolie’s ‘Tourist’ turn attention overseas

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It was choppy waters for the ‘Dawn Treader’ and rough travels for ‘The Tourist’ as Christmas movie season launched with a whimper this weekend.

3-D family film ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ and the Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie adult thriller ‘The Tourist,’ both big-budget spectacles with aspirations of big box office to match, opened with studio-estimated ticket sales of $24.5 million and $17 million, respectively, in the U.S. and Canada.


They were soft domestic debuts for such high-profile films, which puts pressure on the pictures to perform exceptionally well overseas, where the studios releasing them believe they have better commercial prospects.

Luckily for ‘Narnia’ backers 20th Century Fox and Walden Media, the movie delivered in its international debut. It opened in most foreign countries this weekend to a strong $67 million, almost three times the domestic launch. Including some early debuts last weekend, the foreign total for ‘Narnia’ is $81 million.

Initial foreign grosses weren’t as impressive for ‘The Tourist,’ which was shot largely on location in Europe. It debuted to only $8 million in a handful of countries, despite the global popularity of Depp and Jolie. Results were pretty good but not great in countries including Great Britain, South Korea and Taiwan.

The domestic opening of ‘Dawn Treader’ was less than half that of the previous two ‘Narnia’ movies, 2005’s ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ and 2008’s ‘Prince Caspian,’ even though the new movie played in 3-D and thus benefited from higher ticket prices.

Fox executives were prepared for a weak start as many fans were left with a sour taste by the poorly received ‘Prince Caspian, though they had hoped it would at least top $30 million,. The studio picked up the ‘Narnia’ series after Disney dropped it following ‘Caspian’ and produced and marketed ‘Dawn Treader’ in line with ‘Wardrobe’ in hopes of recapturing at least some of that original movie’s success, particularly with Christian audiences. Together with co-financier Walden Media, it spent $155 million to produce the film.

In good news, those who went to the new ‘Narnia’ gave it an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. With good word-of-mouth, the movie could easily sail to a little more than $100 million by the end of the year, a so-so run for such a costly picture. But the early foreign results indicate it could generate more than $250 million overseas, where 3-D family films are very popular, making for a hit on a worldwide basis.

‘The Tourist,’ meanwhile, received a less impressive though not terrible CinemaScore of B among the primarily adult female audience who came out to the poorly reviewed picture. It’s unclear whether that means word of mouth will be good enough for the picture to keep playing or if its ticket sales will largely fade out by the holidays.

It was the worst opening for a movie playing nationwide at more than 2,000 theaters starring Depp since 2001’s ‘From Hell’ and for Jolie since 2006’s ‘The Good Shepherd.’

Producer Graham King’s GK Films spent about $100 million to make ‘The Tourist,’ and will have a tough time turning a profit unless it performs much better in foreign markets where it launches in the future. The movie is being distributed and marketed in most countries, including the U.S., by Sony Pictures.

Among movies already in theaters, ‘Tangled’ stood out as ticket sales dropped only 33% on its third weekend to $14.6 million. Walt Disney Studios’ 3-D animated film is now at $115.6 million and should top $150 million domestically by the end of the year. Overseas, where it has opened in only 17 markets that Disney believes represent about 45% of its box-office potential, the movie stands at $76.5 million.

[Update, 1:56 P.M.: Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office according to studio estimates and, along with foreign results when available:

1. ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader ‘ (Fox/Walden): Opened to $24.5 million. $67 million overseas in foreign 56 markets. International total: $81 million. 2. ‘The Tourist’ (GK Films/Sony): Opened to $17 million. $8 million overseas in 15 foreign markets.

3. ‘Tangled’ (Disney): $14.6 million on its third weekend, down 33%. Domestic total: $115.6 million. $21 million overseas in 17 foreign markets. International total: $76.5 million.

4. ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1' (Warner Bros.): $8.5 million on its fourth weekend, down 50%. Domestic total: $257.7 million. $30.2 million overseas in 64 foreign markets. International total: $520.3 million.

5. ‘Unstoppable’ (Fox/Dune/Ingenious): $3.8 million on its fifth weekend, down 37%. Domestic total: $74.3 million.

6. ‘The Black Swan’ (Fox Searchlight/Cross Creek): $3.3 million on its second weekend, up 131% as it expanded to 90 theaters from 18. Domestic total: $5.6 million.

7. ‘Burlesque’ (Sony Screen Gems): $3.2 million on its third weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $32.6 million.

8. ‘Love and Other Drugs’ (Fox/Regency): $3 million on its third weekend, down 47%. Domestic total: $27.7 million.

9. ‘Due Date’ (Warner Bros./Legendary): $2.6 million on its sixth weekend, down 38%. Domestic total: $94.9 million. $4.2 million overseas in 53 foreign markets. International total: $89.6 million.

10. ‘Megamind’ (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount): $2.5 million on its sixth weekend, down 49%. Domestic total: $140.2 million.]

-- Ben Fritz

[Updated at 1:57 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that ‘Dawn Treader’ grossed $81 million overseas this weekend alone.

Top photo: Will Poulter in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader.’ Credit: 20th Century Fox. Bottom photo: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in ‘The Tourist.’ Credit: Peter Mountain / Sony Pictures.