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.
Fox said it succeeded in its aim of resurrecting the franchise, and was "excited" about its overall prospects.
"The Tourist" marks the worst start in years for its high-profile stars. Jolie's last big flop was "A Mighty Heart," which opened to $3.9 million in 2007. Depp has to go back to 2001 for a worse performance: "From Hell," with $11 million.
Jolie was in theaters a few months ago with "Salt," whose so-so domestic total of $118 million (including a $36 million opening) was boosted by foreign sales of $175 million.
Depp starred in one of the biggest movies of the year, "Alice in Wonderland," which grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, two-thirds coming from overseas.
The new film also did worse than a recent pair of unloved matchups between big stars, "The Bounty Hunter," with Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler ($21 million); and "Knight and Day," with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz ($20 million). They finished with $67 million and $76 million, respectively, in North America. "Bounty Hunter" made a similar amount overseas, while "Knight and Day" earned $185 million internationally.
"The Tourist" was distributed by Sony Corp's Columbia Pictures, which has limited financial exposure. The studio is receiving a distribution fee from Oscar-winning producer Graham King ("The Departed"), who arranged financing himself.
Last weekend's North American champion, the Disney cartoon "Tangled," slipped to No. 3 with $14.6 million. Its total rose to $115.6 million after three weekends. Foreign sales stand at $77 million from 17 markets.
Perhaps the biggest splash in the top 10 was made by the smallest movie. "Black Swan" jumped seven places to No. 6 with $3.3 million from just 90 theaters in its second weekend. The ballet thriller, starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, is among the dozens of films vying for awards-season attention. It was distributed by Fox Searchlight, the arthouse arm of 20th Century Fox.
Editing by Doina Chiacu