Lawrie Dayne and Matt Damon in a scene from the Iraq war movie "Green… (Jasin Boland / Universal…)
Moviegoers would rather escape to "Wonderland," it appears, than visit the "Green Zone" this weekend.
The costly action drama "Green Zone," which re-teams Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass from the last two movies in the Jason Bourne franchise, looks to be the latest film about the Iraq war to underwhelm at the box office.
Tim Burton's 3-D "Alice in Wonderland" is likely to be the No. 1 film again this weekend following last week's $116-million debut, with relatively soft results expected for three low-budget pictures opening Friday: the romantic comedy "She's Out of My League," the romantic drama "Remember Me" starring Robert Pattinson, and the comedy "Our Family Wedding."
Universal Pictures and its financing partner, Relativity Media, invested about $100 million to make "Green Zone" after tax credits. Pre-release surveys of potential moviegoers suggest the film will sell $15 million to $20 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada this weekend.
That would make it a financial disappointment at a particularly tough time for the movie companies after a weak 2009 box-office run and a disappointing return from the recent release "The Wolfman."
Audiences have shown little interest in films that tackle politically thorny issues in Iraq and the Middle East. "Body of Lies" opened to only $12.9 million in 2008 despite two major stars, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. The action-heavy drama "The Kingdom," with Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner, debuted with $17.1 million in 2007.
Despite its critical acclaim, the low-budget Iraq war drama "The Hurt Locker" has grossed only $14.7 million in the U.S. and is not expected to see much of a box-office bump from its Oscar win for best picture.
Summit Entertainment was only able to book "Hurt Locker," which is already on DVD, in 35 additional theaters this weekend despite the film's multiple Academy Award wins.
In hopes of avoiding the same fate, Universal has emphasized the action elements of "Green Zone" in its marketing, as well as the Bourne pedigree of its director and star. The film, which has received decent reviews, is tracking best with older men.
"Green Zone" may perform a bit better overseas. Initial returns from Britain, where it opened Wednesday, were solid. It debuts in 14 foreign markets this weekend, including Spain, Russia and Australia.
After its huge domestic opening, several people who closely follow box-office results expect "Alice in Wonderland" to decline about 50% this weekend, meaning it will likely collect between $50 million and $60 million.
The Walt Disney Pictures release starring Johnny Depp should perform similarly abroad after opening to $100 million in 40 foreign markets last weekend.
Summit's "Remember Me" is primarily generating interest among young women who know Pattinson from the "Twilight" movies and should open close to $10 million.
Paramount Pictures' "She's Out of My League," which was made by the studio's former subsidiary DreamWorks SKG, appears to be more of a date movie and is expected to attract between $6 million and $8 million.
"The Family Wedding," which is being distributed by specialty film label Fox Searchlight, appears to be getting very little interest and may struggle to open to more than $5 million.