'Green Zone' is latest Iraq war film to flop at box office

by Ben Fritz

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

15 March 2010


LOS ANGELES — Executives throughout Hollywood are undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief that they have no more dramas dealing with the Iraq war in the works, as “Green Zone” this weekend became the latest film on the topic to flop at the box office.

It was blown away by “Alice in Wonderland,” which dropped a relatively modest 47 percent in the U.S. and Canada from its huge opening last week. Even more impressive was the performance of director Tim Burton’s 3-D movie overseas, where it is now significantly outpacing its domestic receipts.

Three new low budget films, “Our Family Wedding,” “She’s Out of My League” and “Remember Me,” all posted openings of less than $10 million.

Despite an effort by Universal Pictures to focus the movie’s advertising on its action elements and the pedigree of stars Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, who worked together on “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Green Zone” followed the trend of similarly themed commercial disappointments such as “The Kingdom,” “Body of Lies” and “Stop-Loss.”

“Green Zone” sold $14.5 million of tickets in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, according to an estimate from Universal, and a soft $9.7 million in the 14 foreign markets where it debuted.

“This picture has done better than most of today’s modern war stories,” said Nikki Rocco, Universal’s domestic distribution president. “But we were hoping for better.”

Universal and its financing partner Relativity Media spent about $100 million to produce “Green Zone” and tens of millions more to market the picture, meaning it will be a major money loser.

The two companies had a very difficult 2009 together, with underperformers such as “Land of the Lost,” “State of Play” and “Cirque Du Freak” outweighing hits such as “Fast and Furious” and “Couples Retreat.” “Green Zone” is their second big budget disappointment of 2010, coming after February’s “The Wolfman.”

The movie performed comparatively well in cities with large concentrations of military personnel, such as Washington, DC. Overall, however, those who saw “Green Zone” gave it an average grade of B-, indicating that word-of-mouth will be as mixed as its reviews were.

“Alice in Wonderland,” meanwhile, is already a monster hit, collecting $62 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend and $76 million overseas from 48 territories. In the countries where it opened last weekend, ticket sales for “Alice” dropped just 27 percent, a sign that it has a long life ahead of it at the international box office.

“As impressed as I am that it fell less than 50 percent here, there’s no question that internationally it’s just off the charts,” said Walt Disney Studios’ distribution president, Chuck Viane.

“Alice in Wonderland,” which cost $200 million to produce, has already grossed $208.6 million domestically and $221 million internationally. It has yet to debut in several major foreign markets such as France, Brazil, China and Japan, which will drive its foreign performance significantly higher. A total worldwide gross of more than $750 million now looks very likely for the film.

None of the three new low-budget pictures that opened domestically this weekend stood out. Paramount’s romantic comedy “She’s Out of My League,” which stars Jay Baruchel, played at most theaters and took in $9.6 million.

Summit Entertainment’s family drama “Remember Me,” which drew a mostly female audience thanks in large part to a lead role for “Twilight” star Robert Pattinson, opened to $8.3 million.

Multiethnic comedy “Our Family Wedding,” which Fox Searchlight played at fewer theaters than the other new movies, generated $7.6 million.


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