The Movie: 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader', the third film in the series of big-budget adaptations of the classic young-adult novels by C.S. Lewis. After the second film, 'Prince Caspian', grossed only $140 million domestically in 2008, co-producer Disney jumped ship; 20th Century Fox stepped in to save the day, no doubt enticed by the series' substantial popularity overseas. With director Andrew Adamson moving on to other projects, Fox hired veteran Michael Apted to deliver a cheaper, tighter, more streamlined film. 'Dawn Treader' is the first 'Narnia' installment to clock in under two hours.
The Target Audience: Families suffering from 'Harry Potter' withdrawal; Christian audiences; fans of the books.
The Competition: 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1' is still hanging around, though fading fast; 'Tangled', which has held up admirably after three weeks, also siphoned off some potential audiences. The only new competition in wide release was the frothy, poorly-reviewed Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie thriller 'The Tourist'. For the weekend's full box office results, check out Moviefone's Box Office Report.
The Number: Oh boy. To set the stage, consider that the first film in the franchise, 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', opened to $65 million on an identical weekend five years ago. 'Prince Caspian' – whose comparatively lackluster performance caused Disney to bail on the series, remember – grossed $55 million when it opened in May 2008.
And how did 'Voyage of the Dawn Treader' do? Ready? $24.5 million: less than half of 'Prince Caspian''s opening weekend take. It's difficult to sugarcoat this result: it is miserable. For an expensive, effects-heavy family film in a valuable, well-known franchise to tank like this domestically is rare. Even 'The Golden Compass', which was such a flop that New Line immediately pulled the plug on the planned trilogy, did a little bit better – and was based on a much less well-known and more controversial book. Perhaps because the films have been so unmemorable, audiences have lost interest in this series.
Audiences in North America, at least. If there's a silver lining, it's that the movie is still doing well overseas, and will likely end up turning some sort of profit for Fox and its partner Walden Media, which owns the rights to the books. ('Dawn Treader' is significantly cheaper than its predecessor – its production budget is reported at $155 million, as opposed to $225 million.) But this is undoubtedly a franchise in crisis.
Staying Power: Not very likely. 'Prince Caspian' sank quickly, and it won't be easy for 'Narnia' to stand up to the pressure of 'Tron Legacy', 'Yogi Bear' and 'Gulliver's Travels' in the coming weeks.