News

'Narnia' Retreats with Sequel

by Brandon Gray
Ben Barnes in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
May 19, 2008

The second coming of Narnia had a less passionate opening reception than its predecessor and, being the sole new nationwide release of the weekend, led to one of the softest mid-May periods of the decade in terms of overall foot traffic at the movies.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian captured a sizable $55 million on approximately 8,400 screens at 3,929 theaters to top the weekend, but the reportedly $200 million sequel heralded a theatrical lull for the franchise based on C.S. Lewis' series of religious fantasy novels. The previous adaptation, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, roared in December 2005 with a $65.6 million start (or over $70 million adjusted for ticket price inflation) from fewer screens and wound up with $291.7 million by the end of its run. The disparity is compounded by the fact that, buoyed by the holidays, first weekend grosses in December generally portend higher final grosses than they do in May.

Despite the success of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series, it was unrealistic to expect Prince Caspian to exceed its predecessor as blockbuster franchises normally don't maintain interest. Beyond The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Caspian's literary source was not as popular as what propelled Rings and Potter. Storywise, Lord of the Rings was designed as a trilogy while Potter had the recurring school year and coming-of-age themes. With Narnia, Caspian's just another adventure as the first movie had a complete journey. That's how the picture was marketed as well, as no strong villain or new high stakes were presented, and the Prince Caspian character took center stage with no context or reason to care shown for those who haven't read the books.

What's more, it's been two and a half years since the first Narnia, whereas Rings and Potter made audiences wait only a year for their second adventures. In that time, the fantasy genre has suffered from a glut of movies seemingly all made out of ticky-tacky to the uninitiated (The Golden Compass, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Bridge to Terabithia, etc.), and Prince Caspian looked the same, replete with its computer-generated battles and anthropomorphized animals.

Distributor Walt Disney Pictures' research suggested that Prince Caspian's audience skewed older than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe's with more than half 25 years and older, and opening night moviegoer pollster CinemaScore's rating was lower with an "A-" versus the first movie's "A+." The next movie in the franchise, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is scheduled for May 7, 2010, a week after another sequel to one of this summer's big movies, Iron Man 2.

Speaking of Iron Man, the crowd pleaser held firm in its third weekend, down 38 percent to $31.8 million. Soaring to $223.1 million in 17 days, it will soon surpass X-Men: The Last Stand's total.

What Happens in Vegas held well by the standard of recent major romantic comedies even if it didn't open as well last weekend. It eased 31 percent to $13.9 million for $40.3 million in ten days. Speed Racer, on the other hand, slid 56 percent, notching $8.1 million for $30.3 million in ten days. Baby Mama had the smallest drop among nationwide releases, down 25 percent and good for $47.3 million in 24 days. Below the top five movies, little else of note transpired.

The gasping of Caspian may register as a summer hiccup. Thursday marks the debut of the season's most anticipated picture, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which aims to whip overall business into shape, perhaps excavating some records in the process. The last two Indiana Jones pictures set new first weekend milestones back in the Eighties.

RELATED ARTICLES
Review: 'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian'
5/14/08 - 'Iron Man' Builds, 'Speed Racer' Burns (Last Weekend)

5/21/07 - 'Shrek' Reclaims Crown with Third Movie (Same Weekend, 2007)
5/22/06 - 'Da Vinci' Almighty (Same Weekend, 2006)
12/12/05 - 'Narnian' Delight: Passion of the 'Lion' Pays Off
5/23/05 - Final 'Star Wars' Is Box Office 'Revenge' (Same Weekend, 2005)
5/24/04 - 'Shrek' Lands Far, Far Ahead of Summer Pack (Same Weekend, 2004)
5/19/03 - 'Matrix' Enters the Record Books (Same Weekend, 2003)
5/20/02 - 'Attack of the Clones' Conquers the World (Same Weekend, 2002)

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