The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Tops Slow Box Office Weekend

Angelina, Aslan and Johnny were no match for blizzards, holiday shopping and parties this weekend as the much-anticipated releases of Sony’s The Tourist and Fox’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader both opened below expectations at the North American box office. While the top ten was up 10.5% from last weekend, it was pretty much flat with last year at this time.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia novels to be adapted for the big screen (following 2005’s Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe and 2008’s Prince Caspian), encountered rough sailing but still managed to land in the top spot with an estimated $24.5 million from 3,555 screens. The opening for the $150 million Fox/Walden Media co-production (Disney opted out after the second film) was less than half of Caspian’s debut in May 2008, which itself was down from the opening of the 2005 original.

This sizable opening-weekend sales erosion may be a strong indication that many viewers had enough of the cinematic adventures of Aslan and the kids the last time around (a middling 50% Rotten Tomatoes rating doesn’t help either). Making the opening numbers even more of a red flag was the fact that the film is playing in 3D, whose higher-priced tickets should have helped with the gross. The film will have to rely on overseas grosses if another trip to Narnia is in the cards.

Not even the combined star power of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp could attract people to Sony’s new thriller The Tourist, which stamped its cinematic passport to the tune of $17 million on 2,756 screens. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others), the film is a remake of the 2005 European production Anthony Zimmer and co-stars Paul Bethany, Rufus Sewell and Timothy Dalton. Sony aimed the ad campaign largely at female viewers who comprise a majority of the fan base for Depp and Jolie. Still, that can only carry a film so far and no matter how you slice it and the television ads failed to make the movie enticing to, well, anyone. Brutal reviews (20% on Rotten Tomatoes) also did the movie no favors.

Disney’s 3D animated hit Tangled held well to nab third place this weekend and let its hair down to collect an estimated $14.5 million in sales to bring its three week total to $115.6 million. Down only 32% from last weekend, the comedy should continue to show sturdy legs as the holidays get closer and kids begin to take their year-end school breaks. Tangled could finish its run between $170-175 million.

Continuing its domestic box office free fall to land in fourth place was Warner’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, off another 50% to an estimated $8.5 million and a new North American total of $258 million. The first half of the boy wizard’s final adventure is on course to finish in the $280-290 million range, roughly the same amount that 2005’s Goblet of Fire and 2007’s Order of the Phoenix ended at (although both sold more tickets overall). As of this past Thursday, the film has amassed a big $470 million so far, bringing the film’s overall total to $728 million.

Arriving in fifth place in its fifth weekend of release was Fox’s runaway train drama Unstoppable with an estimated $3.7 million to bring its total to the $74.2 million range. Off 37% from last weekend, the Tony Scott-directed film could still reach the $85 million mark by the end of the film’s run. Overseas, the movie has pulled in $51 million to date.

Fox Searchlight’s Oscar-hopeful Black Swan continued its winning ways in its second weekend of release to land in sixth place. Playing on a mere 90 screens, the Darren Aronofsky ballet drama starring Natalie Portman pirouetted its way to a huge $3.3 million estimated gross for a superb per-screen average of $37,000. After ten days, the film has grossed a terrific $6 million so far and will no doubt benefit from the upcoming awards season. How well it plays outside of cities; however, is still a big question mark. After all, 127 Hours got off to a great start in limited release last month but lost steam as it slowly rolled out.

Speaking of impressive limited runs, Paramount opened their true-life sports drama The Fighter on four screens in Los Angeles, New York and Boston for a knockout $320,000 weekend and a spectacular $80,000 per-screen average. Directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings) and starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams, the well-received drama (85% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating) will go into wide release next Friday.

Spots seven through ten at the box office went to a quartet of Thanksgiving release leftovers. Screen Gems’ Burlesque sang and danced its way to $3.2 million for the weekend (off 48%) for a new three-week total of $32.5 million. A $38-40 million final gross is in the cards. Eighth place went to Fox’s sex comedy Love and Other Drugs which fell 47% for a $3 million estimate and a new to-date total of $27.6 million.

Ninth place went to Warner’s road comedy hit Due Date which eased 38% off of the pedal to add $2.5 million to its $94.8 million domestic coffers. The $100 million milestone could be reached by the end of this month. Finally, Paramount-Dreamworks’ Megamind grossed $2.5 million to bring its domestic total to the $140 million mark.

Next weekend Disney will launch its much-hyped 3D sequel Tron: Legacy on screens worldwide. The anticipated sci-fi epic will be joined by the latest film from James L. Brooks, the ensemble comedy How Do You Know, the national expansion of The Fighter, and Warner’s Yogi Bear. Sigh.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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