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Sunday, May 18, 2008

'Prince Caspian' disappoints with $56.6m, May 16-18, 2008

Could it be that the oversaturated children's fantasy genre has finally begun to affect the box office performance of the heavyweights? Despite knocking off two-week champ Iron Man from its dominant perch, Disney's mega-budget fantasy sequel The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian failed to live up to even the most conservative expectations, debuting in the top spot with a disappointing $56.6 million.

Rumored to have carried a budget of nearly $200 million (the first Narnia cost $180 million), Disney's supposedly surefire juggernaut failed to match even its predecessor's opening weekend numbers on a weekend usually considered one of the most lucrative of the summer season. Released in December 2005, The Chronicles of Narnia gave Disney a franchise starter to compete against Warner's Harry Potter, opening with $65.6 million on its way to a jaw-dropping $291.7 million domestic and $744 million worldwide. Averaging $14,399 from 3,929 theaters, the underwhelming opening helped turn the normally potent frame into the worst pre-Memorial Day weekend in seven years.

With most industry estimates forecasting a debut in the range of $75-85 million, execs at Disney were left scratching their heads at the numbers coming in this morning. While reviews were generally positive (71% recommended on Rottentomatoes.com vs. 75% for 2005's Narnia), it was the empty weekend and massive marketing push that had most analysts projecting a handsome payoff this weekend. Perhaps the most foreboding sign for Prince Caspian came late last year when New Line's equally pricey fantasy venture The Golden Compass flopped with a $25.7 million opening and $70 million total haul, essentially crippling the now defunct New Line Studios for good. Still, with a 5% uptick in sales from Friday to Saturday ($19.3m to $20.3m), word of mouth could keep the film performing solidly throughout May-June.

As if the news weren't bad enough Disney's next Narnia adventure, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, has already been slated for a May 7th, 2010 opening. And guess what is opening one week ahead of it? Marvel Studios' Iron Man 2 on April 30th.

Speaking of Iron Man, the superhero juggernaut continued to rocket its way to history, falling just 39% to an estimated $31.2 million this weekend. In just 17 days, the $140 million budgeted production has amassed $222.5 million, already making the Robert Downey Jr. starrer the seventh highest grossing superhero pic of all-time. This weekend it surged ahead of 2003's X2: X-Men United with $214.9m and 2005's Batman Begins with $205.3m. At its current pace the film could reach $275 million domestically, which would make it the fourth highest grossing superhero film ever, behind only Spider-Mans 1,2 and 3.

Falling one spot to third was Ashton Kutcher's and Cameron Diaz's romantic comedy What Happens in Vegas, which slipped just 31% to $13.9 million. The $35 million budgeted Fox pic has now amassed $40.3 million in ten days, and should wind up with an impressive $75 million domestically.

Sputtering out in its sophomore frame with a 59% drop was Warner's Speed Racer, which earned just $7.6 million this weekend. In ten days the $120 million budgeted Wachowski Bros. flick has accumulated just $29.8 million, making the film the first bona fide flop of 2008.

Thanks to a underwhelming bow from Prince Caspian, the top ten films grossed an estimated $124.4 million, down a steep 27% from last year's comparable frame when Shrek the Third exploded to the top spot with $121.6 million.


Sugarless deLite said...
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Sugarless deLite said...

Here are a few extra thoughts on why Narnia did not live up to the expectations:

The second movie in the Narnia series suffered on several fronts. First, the film made several alterations to the story of the book that, while minor, were unnecessary and took away from the overall feel of the story. Second, the film was too long. Unfortunately, the extra length was primarily due to two long fight scenes. Producers and director might one day learn that we don't need for these battles to rage on for 20 plus minutes. The story is more important than the visuals. Lastly, the story seems to be missing some of the Christian overtones that are found in the book and were prevalent in the first movie. Without them, the world of Narnia seems to suffer devoid of its magic.

Stephen Wong said...

Interesting points sugarless, and I'm really curious whether those things will wind up hurting Prince Caspian further into summer. If this Memorial weekend is any indication, you might be right, as the film fell 58%, 7% more than its predecessor back in 2005. I wonder if this will force Disney to retool the way they approach Dawn Treader in 2010.