3-D is still a box office boon, but the digital technology can't create a hit.
"How to Train a Dragon" put a damper on the momentum for 3-D created this year by blockbuster hits "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland" as it opened to a less-than-impressive $43.3 million domestically and $31 million overseas in 35 foreign territories.
Theaters showing "Dragon" with a digital 3D screen averaged 65% higher box office than those with only 2-D, while Imax 3-D screens averaged almost four times as much as 2-D. Distributor Paramount Pictures' aggressive push to book "Dragon" at as many 3-D locations as possible, despite competition from "Alice in Wonderland" and next week's "Clash of the Titans," paid off as a combination of higher ticket prices and attendance for 3-D provided a boost to the bottom line for "Dragon."
Audience enthusiasm for 3-D, however, didn't make them more enthusiastic to see the movie, which cost $165 million to produce. Despite an aggressive marketing push for "Dragon," its domestic opening was 27% lower than that of DreamWorks' last animated feature, "Monsters vs Aliens," which played on fewer 3-D screens on the same weekend last year.
Overseas, the new film's performance was mixed in comparison with its predecessor. "Dragon" is playing better than "Monsters" did in Brazil, Germany and Russia but started slower in Australia, Italy, Mexico and Spain. Since the international performance of "Monsters vs Aliens" was a disappointment for DreamWorks Animation, the studio was surely hoping that its new picture would play well in more countries.
Those who saw "How to Train Your Dragon" seemed to love it, however, with domestic audiences giving it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Combined with excellent reviews and no major new family films coming until DreamWorks' own "Shrek Forever After" in May, there's some reason for the studio to hope "Dragon" will play well in the weeks to come and end up a winner.
"We're anticipating long-term playability," said Anne Globe, DreamWorks Animation head of worldwide marketing. "Word-of-mouth and reviews should propel us."
(For more on the opening of "How to Train Your Dragon," as well as the debut of "Hot Tub Time Machine," see our initial box office post.)
Although "Alice in Wonderland's" domestic run is winding down with $17.3 million this weekend, it is still humming overseas, bringing in $46 million from 51 foreign territories thanks in part to strong openings in France and China. It has now collected a total of $293 million domestically and $363 million internationally.
"The Blind Side," meanwhile, is posting decent numbers in key foreign territories such as Britain, Germany and Mexico but is not turning into the $255-million box-office phenomenom it has been in the U.S. and Canada. So far, the inspirational football movie for which Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award has grossed $22.4 million overseas.
In limited release, Focus Features expanded "Greenberg" from three theaters to 181 and took in a pretty good $1.1 million, bringing its total to $1.2 million.
Director Atom Egoyan's "Chloe" opened to a soft $1 million at 350 locations.
Disney opened its animation documentary "Waking Sleeping Beauty" to a modest $33,100 at five theaters.
Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com.