‘Narnia’ film to trump ‘Tourist’ at box office

December 11, 2010

Two costly movies open in theaters across North America on Friday, although neither is expected to deck the halls extravagantly during a relatively quiet pre-Christmas period.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” looks likely to lead the field with three-day sales of $35 million-$45 million.

“The Tourist,” an action thriller starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, is expected to earn a modest $20 million, vying for second or third place with current champ “Tangled” and former champ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.”

Directed by versatile British filmmaker Michael Apted (“The World Is Not Enough”), “Dawn Treader” cost about $145 million to make. That’s down significantly from the $225 million tab for its immediate franchise predecessor, 2008′s “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.” This time around, producer Walden Media and distributor Fox (taking over from Disney) cut costs by using more soundstages, reducing visual effects and obtaining hefty Australian tax credits.

Franchise-launcher “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” bowed in 2005 with $65.6 million, part of a $291.7 million domestic run. “Caspian” debuted with $55 million and rang up a disappointing $141.6 million.

“The Tourist” was produced for roughly $100 million, with all costs born by producer Graham King’s GK Films. Sony is distributing for a fee. Amid soft interest from prospective moviegoers, some industry pundits have blamed the marketing materials, while others said the A-list casting can’t mask a tired concept.

Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“The Lives of Others), “The Tourist” has Depp’s character traveling to Venice to get over a recent breakup and getting involved with Jolie’s sultry Interpol agent.

Limited openers this weekend include Paramount’s Mark Wahlberg boxing movie “The Fighter,” with four playdates in three markets.

Among notable expansions, Fox Searchlight’s Natalie Portman starrer “Black Swan” adds 72 playdates for a total of 90 engagements in its second session, with the suspense thriller toting $1.5 million in sales to date.

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