I think we can call it an official formula now. Take a classic children’s story or theme park ride, add Johnny Depp in a weird costume and let him act as goofy as he pleases, and PRESTO. You got yourself a billion dollars. Variety reports today that Depp and Tim Burton’s 3D ”Alice in Wonderland” is on the verge of becoming the sixth movie of all time to make a cool billion dollars at the worldwide box office.
With less than a week until Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" hits DVD shelves on June 1, the 3D fantasy is about to hit the $1 billion mark worldwide on the theatrical side. The Tim Burton pic has topped the box office in Japan for six straight weeks, and thanks to landing in second-run moviehouses, it even saw a 10% bounce last weekend in the U.S.
Variety also notes that, of the six movies to make a billion dollars worldwide, “Alice” is the first to not have been released during the summer or holiday season, the two traditional peak moviegoing seasons. Blockbusters have always been liable to happen at any time, but the wild success of “Alice” now opens up the idea that enormous event movie releases can be staggered year round, which means you don’t have to wait until summer every year to get your dose of expensive stuff blowing up.
There are plenty of reasons “Alice” has done so well. It had very little competition. It was the next 3D movie to come after “Avatar,” and thus likely benefited from people seeing “Avatar,” loving it, and wanting to see more big 3D movies right afterwards. It’s a rare coattail riding slot in film history that may never be duplicated. And it’s one of the most famous children’s stories of all time.
But credit is really due to two people: Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp. This will be the second Depp movie to reside in that elite billion-dollar company (Pirates 2 is the other), with a third Depp flick (Pirates 3) lurking just under the plateau, and a fourth Depp movie (Pirates 4) likely to join the club sometime in 2011.
That’s quite a track record for Johnny Depp, and it begs the question: Is there anyone in the universe who doesn’t like Johnny Depp? Can you think of one? Everyone loves Johnny Depp. Your niece loves him because he’s cute. Your mom loves him because he’s cute. Your hipster cousin loves him because he’s cool. The man’s appeal is shockingly universal. And while you may have found “Alice” to be a disappointing movie (certainly critics did), there’s something encouraging about the idea that Johnny Depp – an actor who has always picked roles for passion and not a paycheck, an actor who will happily go out on a limb and dare you to join him – can become the biggest box office draw in the history of the world. That’s a pretty cool trick. It’s gotta be the eyeliner.