Will ‘Alice In Wonderland’ Be The Biggest Tim Burton-Johnny Depp Movie Ever?

Seventh Burton-Depp collaboration could do big 3-D box-office numbers.

Tim Burton’s [movie id="373927"]“Alice in Wonderland”[/movie] is the first 3-D release since James Cameron’s “Avatar” opened to box-office numbers that made had every studio exec in Hollywood crying, “We need our own 3-D mega-blockbuster!” Luckily, Disney had long planned “Alice” as a 3-D release, and Burton didn’t have to submit his film to the last-minute addition of a third dimension, as “Clash of the Titans” filmmakers had to earlier this year.

So with 3-D effects, and the higher ticket prices that come as a result, in place — plus Johnny Depp in a starring role as the Mad Hatter — “Alice” is well positioned for a huge opening weekend. But how will it compare to past collaborations from Burton and Depp? Will “Alice,” the duo’s seventh big-screen outing, become their most profitable ever?

Right now, that position is held by “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which opened in the summer of 2005 with $56.2 million, on its way to $206.5 million in total domestic box-office biz. “Alice” is projected to make approximately $70 million this weekend, though that total could rise as high as $90 million if the stars align for Disney and Burton.

That’s a quite a change from their first film, 1990′s “Edward Scissorhands,” when Johnny Depp was known solely from his time on “21 Jump Street,” and Burton was coming off the blockbuster success of “Batman.” In its first weekend of wide release, “Scissorhands” grossed just $6.3 million, eventually climbing to a $56.4 million total.

Their next film, “Ed Wood” in 1994, faired even worse during its first wide weekend — only $1.9 million in ticket sales — barely cracking the top 10 releases (losing out to the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “Timecop” and “Forrest Gump”). Which is not to say “Wood” was a failure. The film was nominated for three Golden Globes and two Oscars, and arguably represents Depp and Burton’s finest work together.

Not until 1999, however, did the pair begin to make films with broad commercial prospects. That year, “Sleepy Hollow” opened with $30.1 million at the box office — denied the top spot by the James Bond franchise entrant, “The World Is Not Enough.” “Sleepy Hollow,” though, carried a big budget and finished up its B.O. run with just $101.1 million. Burton and Depp still hadn’t established their creative work as being able to deliver big bucks too.

All that changed with “Chocolate Factory,” their first #1 debut, though months later, their stop-motion animated “Corpse Bride” wrangled just $53.4 million after its opening $19.1 million weekend. Over two years after that, the men reconvened for “Sweeney Todd:
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” which was a commercial disappointment (opening with $9.3 million and grossing a total of $52.9) but did quite well critically. Depp nabbed a Best Actor Oscar nod and won a Golden Globe. The film itself won the Globe for best musical or comedy.

Which brings us to “Alice.” Even a $70 million weekend would send Burton and Depp’s picture on a safe path toward unseating “Chocolate Factory.” “Alice” will have a full month as the only new 3-D movie in release, until “Clash” arrives in April. The key indicator for Burton and Depp will come during the second weekend, a time when most new releases drop 50 percent or more. “Avatar,” conversely, dropped only 1.8 percent. While no one expects “Alice” to do business anywhere near what “Avatar” has done, we can be almost certain about one thing: “Alice” will be Burton and Depp’s biggest movie together ever.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Alice in Wonderland.”

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