Commentary: Has America fallen out of love with Johnny Depp?
LOS ANGELES – Vampire movies are fading. Tim Burton has taken an odd left turn. “The Avengers” was going to be an unstoppable force no matter what opened against it.
There are no shortage of reasons why “Dark Shadows” sputtered at the box office recently, grossing just $28.8 million. (To put it in context, it was Burton’s lowest total ever for a wide opener. Even “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” took in nearly double that amount.
Certainly it was hard to ignore the halo effect of the (Robert) Downey-fest on any weekend comer. But equally conspicuous was the sight of Johnny Depp in yet another domestic disappointment. Since overperforming in “Alice in Wonderland” more than two years ago, Depp has been involved in seemingly one misstep after another.
He signed on to an art-house ac- tioner in “The Tourist,” which flopped at the U.S. box office. He followed that up with what appeared to be a sure breadwinner in a fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie last summer, only to see it become the lowest-grossing domestic performer of the franchise. A new Hunter S. Thompson stab, “The Rum Diary,” was a flop, taking in just $13 million at home.
And now there’s “Dark Shadows,” a dismal movie for reviewers and an equally bad performer by commercial standards. But Depp isn’t completely faltering. International audiences seem to love him more than ever. Though it flopped here, the most recent “Pirates” was the second-highest-grossing film of the franchise internationally. “The Tourist” was a downright smash overseas.
“Dark Shadows” didn’t blow away international audiences when it opened May 11. But with about $37 million, the remake of the campy American soap has tallied more abroad than it has here.
It may be premature to say that Depp is turning into a kind of Oscar-friendly Steven Seagal, a man more popular overseas than at home. But America seems to have gotten over its obsession with Depp (who now spends a lot of time in Paris), an obsession that in his “Edward Scissorhands”/“Gilbert Grape” heyday made him either a box-office force and/or a teen pinup. At 48, he’s clearly making choices that international audiences are responding to a lot more than American ones.
Next up for Depp is “The Lone Ranger” in May 2013. It will be the ultimate test of Depp’s appeal. Few stories get more American than that.