Disney: Dreader of DAWN TREADER?

The Mouse House may hold the already-delayed production of The Chronicles of Narnia Part 3 even longer and likely will cut a big chunk of the budget.
The latest movement -- or lack thereof -- on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is due to an underwhelming return on Film #2, according to Jim Hill Media. This summer's Prince Caspian, which cost $265 million for production and marketing, scraped together domestic box office receipts totaling only $141.6 million -- less than half the take of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe in December '05.
Even worse, Caspian earned $278 mil abroad while its predecessor raked in $453.3 mil.

This apparently came as a surprise to Disney and partner Walden Media, who felt that Caspian was a stronger film than Wardrobe. Disney CEO Bob Iger said there were just "too many movies...in the marketplace." But the LA Times' NOEL MURRAY had another explanation: "Absent the sense of discovery and wonder that made the first Narnia film so magical, what's left [in Prince Caspian] is a well-made but fairly rote sword-and-sorcery-and-talking-animal movie, lightly draped in religious allegory."

But, according to other theorists, moviegoers didn't find Wardrobe all that magical in the first place. The facts seem to support this explanation: only half the initial installment's audience returned for Part 2. However, producers appear confident that the DVD and Blu-Ray releases will put Caspian in the black. After all, Wardrobe has moved 11 million units since April '06. Still, that enormous production/marketing budget will be a lot to overcome.

All this helps to explain why The Voyage of the Dawn Treader missed its previously-announced October start date, and also why Disney -- who's contractually obligated to foot the printing and advertising bills -- is pushing Walden Media to cut the the proposed $140 million budget by nearly a third. Already, plans to shoot in Europe have been nixed in favor of Baja Studios in Rosarito Beach and James Cameron's Titanic water tank in Mexico.

The film still hasn't received a green light, but actors have been cast for the Michael Apted-directed production, which now is expected to commence lensing next month. However, the future of the Narnia saga -- all 7 parts of which the Mouse House once was prepared to put on screen -- looks pretty bleak. It seems few Disney suits would shed tears, since that epic plan originated with former honcho Michael Eisner in 2004, back when the studio still had no franchise to rival Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Now flush with the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney seems not so anxious to gamble truckloads of cash on someone else's pet project.

Not even Narnia producer Mark Johnson could fake optimism at this year's New York Comic-Con. "Right now, we have no plans to go beyond The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. If [that movie is] successful, I'd love to do The Silver Chair after that." The unspoken message was louder than words: If Dawn Treader doesn't outperform Prince Caspian, the magical wardrobe will close for good.

[Thanks to Sci Fi Wire.]
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Jim Hill Media