How Did Burton Beat Cameron?

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Slate's Culture Blog
March 11 2010 1:54 PM

How Did Burton Beat Cameron?

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland shattered Avatar 's record for a 3-D premiere this past weekend raking in $116 million to Avatar 's $77 million. Alice also set a record for the "biggest opening weekend for a non-sequel." How did Alice slay the blue cats?

As Box Office Mojo's Brandon Gray explains, Alice opened on more 3-D screens than any movie ever before; 2,251 to Avatar's 2,038. Alice opened on more IMAX screens as well: 188 to Avatar 's 178. Gray estimates that inflated ticket prices at IMAX and 3-D showings added around $22 million to Alice 's total opening gross.

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Alice's PG rating also makes it accessible to more people than Avatar , rated PG-13. Relatedly, Burton's film seems to have a wider demographic appeal. During Avatar 's opening weekend, exit polls indicated that 57 percent of the movie's audience was male, and that 62 percent was 25 or older. Alice , though, did well among a number of different groups. According to Disney exit polls (cited by Gray), 55 percent of the film's audience was female and 54 percent was under the age of 25. Parents with children made up 39 percent of Alice 's audience, while couples accounted for 36 percent. And crucially, Alice managed to draw in different audiences at different points throughout the weekend. As Disney distribution president Chuck Viane told the Los Angeles Times : Young adults attended midnight showings on Thursday, couples on dates saw the movie on Friday night, and families flocked to Saturday matinees.

Despite these remarkable numbers, it's unlikely that Alice will continue to outpace Avatar , especially since Burton's film will be moved off of most 3-D screens on March 26 to make room for Dreamworks' How To Train Your Dragon . The film's critical reception has also been less than enthusiastic: It currently has a middling 52 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes . Slate 's own Dana Stevens says that Alice "represents the confluence of a number of depressing cinematic trends: the need to ransack classic children's literature for ideas, the unimaginative layering of 3-D technology onto a visual universe that would look just fine without it, and the belief that slathering familiar storylines with a superficial gloss of Gothic 'darkness' constitutes a substantial reinterpretation." Ouch maybe Tim Burton should wipe that Cheshire grin off his face.

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