RSS
Alice's box office bonanza: 5 theories
How did Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland defy critical barbs to become a historic, global box office hit?
Johnny Depp, star of Tim Burton's 3D version of 'Alice in Wonderland'
Johnny Depp, star of Tim Burton's 3D version of 'Alice in Wonderland'
Creative Commons
W

hile critics lined up to pan Tim Burton's gothic rethink of Alice in Wonderland, moviegoers have lined up to see it ... repeatedly, in some cases. Disney's 3-D extravaganza has shattered global box office records, taking in $210 million in the best-ever opening weekend for a winter release. How did Burton's so-called mediocrity excel at the box office? (Watch an AP report about "Alice"'s box office dominance.)

1. People are craving 3-D movies: Alice's breakthrough was "driven largely by 3-D," reports Ben Fritz at the LA Times. "Virtually every" 3-D Imax screening in the U.S. sold out, reinforcing the new conventional wisdom that audiences are "particularly motivated by the technology." Brace yourself for more films determined to invade your space.

2. Moviegoers will pay extra for 3-D: While there was a "halo effect" from Avatar's pioneering use of 3-D, says Ben Rooney in CNN Money, Alice owes much of its financial success to premium ticket prices. Admission to a 3-D screening "can cost up to $4 more than traditional films," and a full-on IMAX screening can cost up to $20.

3. It's the marketing, stupid: Don't forget the "ambitious marketing campaign," says Daniel Frankel at TheWrap.com: As part of its blitz, Disney unleashed an assault on major daily newspaper readers. According to Disney's head of distribution, the studio "kept [its] eye on the ball" and is now claiming the reward.

4. Hmm ... might have something to do with its time-tested star: Critics are irrelevant here, says Anders Bylund at the Motley Fool. It's a film starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton, based on a "proven blockbuster story," familiar to international audiences in "both film and literature." Don't overestimate the 3-D "phenomenon"—the film's talent and story credentials helped.

5. There wasn't exactly a lot of competition: Alice's success could be a simple as good timing, says Barry Steele at HeyUGuys. So far, 2010 has been a lean year for good movies and—given the "critical mauling" every other new picture received—Alice was bound to succeed by default. Audiences are "starved" for big movies, even if they're bad.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week