Foreign moviegoers rescue ailing "Narnia"

Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:40pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The third movie in the shaky "Narnia" fantasy franchise took the top spot at the worldwide box office on Sunday despite a soft start in North America where it overshadowed "The Tourist," the new bomb starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" sold $105.5 million worth of tickets globally, distributor 20th Century Fox said.

But moviegoers in the United States and Canada contributed just $24.5 million during its first three days. Industry pundits had predicted a $30 million to $40 million start for the third adaptation of C.S. Lewis' Christian-themed books.

The News Corp-owned studio said the film was No. 1 in at least 32 of its 56 overseas markets. Top contributors to the $81 million haul included Russia ($11.3 million) and Mexico ($7.5 million).

"The Tourist," starring Jolie and Depp as a mismatched pair cavorting around Venice, debuted at No. 2 in North America with $17 million -- short of muted forecasts in the $20 million range. Internationally, it earned $8 million from a handful of markets, led by Korea ($3 million, No. 2) and Britain ($2.2 million, No. 3)

Both films were lambasted by critics, and both carried hefty price tags -- $150 million and $100 million, respectively -- requiring strong overseas sales to make them profitable. The two previous "Chronicles of Narnia" films did most of their business overseas, where Depp and Jolie are also more popular.


The previous "Narnia" film almost sank the franchise. "Prince Caspian" opened to $55 million in 2008 on its way to a weak total of $142 million. The overseas haul was $278 million. Its predecessor, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," ended up with $292 million in North America after a $66 million debut. Foreign fans kicked in an additional $453 million.

Fox took over the series after Walt Disney Co dropped it in the wake of the "Caspian" flop. The films are produced by family-friendly film company Walden Media, which is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz.   Continued...