The $56.3 million taken in by "Snow White and the Huntsman" at the U.S. box office this weekend won't shatter any industry records. But the number, like the movie's "B" CinemaScore, was a respectable result in a season that has been turning out plenty of zeroes.
What drove the film, and what can be learned from it? Here are five lessons of "Snow White's" solid performance.
Capeless. Between "Battleship," "John Carter" and "Dark Shadows," spring 2012 has seemed like a parade of big-budget disappointments, particularly for non-superhero movies. Either your release is an all-out "Avengers"-style blockbuster or you're fighting for scraps. But the results for "Snow White," along with the $112-million "Men in Black 3" has taken in domestically since opening last weekend, showed that there's room for mid-range, non-superhero successes in a season that's been dominated by "The Avengers" (and will next month be stormed by "The Dark Knight Rises").
No fairy tale. With "Mirror Mirror," "Red Riding Hood" and "Beastly" all disappointments over the last 18 months, the fairy-tale boom has often seemed like a bust. Turns out there's life in the subgenre yet -- though we'll see if it's enough life to support a potential "Huntsman" spinoff.
Universalism. It hasn't exactly been the best season for Universal Pictures, with "Battleship" tanking and "The Five-Year Engagement" stalling. But "Snow White" (which also performed well overseas) sets things up for a possible turnaround -- something that will be much needed as the studio releases a trio of hyped bets this summer in "Savages," "Ted" and "The Bourne Legacy."
The adults shall lead them? Fairy tales have long been the province of family films or high-school fables, from Disney's longtime hits to the current crop of teen releases. But Rupert Sanders' movie proves that if you go dark enough and advertise outside the youth demo, adults with steady jobs will come too. The proof? More than half the audience for "Snow White" this weekend was over the age of 30, according to Universal.
No longer stewing. Her performance didn't put her on anyone's Oscar shortlist, and there are plenty of non-Twihards who still aren't sold on Kristen Stewart. But the weekend's opening proved that KStew could -- at least with the aid of costars, a major marketing campaign and a known property -- help open a movie.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Chris Hemsworth and Kristen Stewart in "Snow White and the Huntsman." Credit: Universal Pictures