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'Green Zone' marks a disappointing end to Hollywood's time in Iraq

March 14, 2010 |  1:04 pm

GreenZone1 For better or worse, Hollywood is now done with Iraq.

"Green Zone" is the last drama set to be released by a major studio related to the Iraq war, and Hollywood is undoubtedly grateful for it after the picture, directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Matt Damon, opened to just $14.5 million domestically and $9.7 million overseas.

It's the latest in a string of flops that include "Body of Lies," "The Kingdom" and "Stop-Loss." Even "The Hurt Locker," while not a major disappointment given its low budget, is the lowest- grossing best picture Oscar winner in recent history.

Recognizing that worrisome history, Universal Pictures focused its marketing on Damon and Greengrass' popular collaboration on "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum," but was apparently unable to sell the movie based on its action elements.

"This picture has done better than most of today's modern war stories," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's domestic distribution president. "But we were hoping for better."

Universal and its financing partner, Relativity Media, spent about $100 million to produce "Green Zone" and tens of millions more to market the picture, meaning it will be a major money loser.

"Alice in Wonderland," meanwhile, is turning out to be not just a hit domestically, but a phenomenon overseas. Like "Avatar," the 3-D blockbuster is racking up foreign grosses significantly faster than in the U.S. and Canada.

While its domestic ticket sales fell 47%, international ticket sales dropped just 27% in the same territories where it started playing last weekend. Along with six new markets including India and Vietnam, "Alice in Wonderland" grossed $76 million internationally and $62 million domestically. It has yet to hit several major foreign countries such as France, China, Japan and Brazil.

In total, "Alice" has taken in $429 million worldwide and seems sure to end up grossing at least $750 million, making it a massive profit generator despite its sizable $200-million production cost.

However, it's very unlikely that "Alice" will play for as long as "Avatar," which just took in $23.6 million on its 13th weekend. DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon" will take a significant number of 3-D screens worldwide beginning March 26, followed a week later with the April 2 release of Warner Bros.' 3-D "Clash of the Titans."

For more on the weekend box office, including the openings of "She's Out of My League," "Remember Me," and "Our Family Wedding," see our initial box-office post.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and

1. "Alice in Wonderland" (Disney): $62 million on its second weekend, down 47%. $76 million overseas in 48 foreign territories. Domestic total: $208.6 million. International total: $221 million.

2. "Green Zone" (Universal/Relativity): Opened to $14.5 million, $9.7 million overseas in 14 foreign territories.

3. "She's Out of My League" (Paramount/DreamWorks): Opened to $9.6 million.

4. "Remember Me" (Summit): Opened to $8.3 million.

5. "Shutter Island" (Paramount): $8.1 million on its fourth weekend, down 38%. Domestic total: $108 million.

6. "Our Family Wedding" (Fox Searchlight): Opened to $7.6 million.

7. "Avatar" (Fox/Dune/Ingenious): $6.6 million on its 13th weekend, down 19%. $17 million overseas in 69 foreign markets. Domestic total: $730.3 million. International total: $1.91 billion.

8. "Brooklyn's Finest" (Overture/Millennium): $4.3 million, down 68% on its second weekend. Domestic total: $21.4 million.

9. "Cop Out" (Warner Bros.): $4.2 million on its third weekend, down 54%. Domestic total: $39.4 million.

10. "The Crazies" (Overture/Participant/Imagenation): $3.7 million on its third weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $33.4 million.

-- Ben Fritz 

Photo: Amy Ryan and Matt Damon in "Green Zone." Credit: Jasin Boland / Universal Pictures