By Daniel Bukszpan, CNBC.com
On Friday, March 30, "Mirror, Mirror" will debut on movie screens across North America. The film is a live-action interpretation of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," starring Julia Roberts as the wicked queen and newcomer Lily Collins as the fairest one of all. This movie should not be confused with "Snow White and the Huntsman," which stars Kristen Stewart of the "Twilight" saga and has a June 1 release date. The budget for "Mirror, Mirror" is less than $90 million, according to studio reports. This makes it relatively inexpensive for a fantasy film, particularly one with an A-list star like Julia Roberts.
More representative of the fantasy genre is "John Carter," which was released earlier this month and had a budget of $250 million. Its opening-weekend domestic box office take was a mere $36 million, but that's fantasy filmmaking for you. It's a high-risk genre that requires spectacular visual effects and huge budgets, and the potential for failure is immense. When a fantasy movie connects with audiences, however, a potential gold mine awaits, with sequels, prequels, and spin-offs extending into the next decade and beyond.
CNBC.com collected the domestic gross box office of fantasy movies, using data from BoxOfficeMojo.com and adjusting the numbers for inflation to see which fantasy movies, as defined by BoxOfficeMojo.com, are the highest grossing of all time. Read ahead to find out.
See the slideshow: 10 Highest Grossing Fantasy Movies
1. "Lord of the Rings" (Franchise)
New Line Cinema, 2001-2003
Average Inflation-Adjusted Domestic Gross Per Film (2012): $434 million
For years, filmmakers had attempted to bring J.R.R. Tolkien's epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy of books to movie screens. The effort was abandoned by numerous film studios, all of which deemed it too costly to pull off. But in 1997 New Zealand's Peter Jackson won the rights to direct the film, and New Line Cinema agreed to pay the bills.
It was a huge risk. All three films were shot simultaneously, with a budget of just under $100 million per installment, so if moviegoers didn't like the first one, the entire franchise would die a very slow, expensive and excruciating public death. Luckily, the films were hugely successful and each one made more money than the one before it. It was such a success that Jackson has gone back to the Tolkien trough, and in December 2012 the first half of the two-part adaptation of "The Hobbit" is scheduled to be released, with the other half to be released one year later.
2. "Alice in Wonderland"
Walt Disney Pictures, 2010
Domestic Gross: $334 million
Adjusted for Inflation (2012): $347 million
Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" has been the subject of countless adaptations, including several television specials and theatrical films, the earliest of which was a silent movie released in 1903. Over 100 years later, the newest film version was released and it became one of the highest-grossing movies ever.
The 2010 "Alice in Wonderland" stars Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and was directed by Tim Burton, whose flair for the fantastic has been on full display for decades in such films as "Edward Scissorhands" and the 2005 adaptation of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The film was the second-highest-grossing movie of 2010, behind "Toy Story 3."
3. "Harry Potter" (Franchise)
Warner Bros. Pictures, 2001-2011
Average Inflation-Adjusted Domestic Gross Per Film (2012): $338 million
There can scarcely be a person alive who doesn't know about the "Harry Potter" film series. However, for the benefit of those who somehow don't know about it, it's a series of eight films based on the novels by J.K. Rowling about a teenaged wizard.
For a full decade the franchise reigned supreme at the box office. Unlike many films in the fantasy genre, the "Harry Potter" movies have all received high praise from critics, and from Rowling herself. The series ended in 2011 with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2."
TriStar Pictures, 1991
Domestic Gross: $120 million
Adjusted for Inflation (2012): $200 million
"Hook" is a 1991 sequel to "Peter Pan" directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Robin Williams as the adult Peter who, contrary to his earlier assertions, grew up. He has forgotten his entire childhood, including his adventures with Wendy, Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys, but when Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) kidnaps his children, he returns to Neverland to reclaim them from his manually challenged nemesis.
Despite its star power, "Hook" was poorly received by critics, but audiences responded enthusiastically and it did brisk business when it was released. It went on to become the highest-grossing pirate-themed movie ever made, until it was supplanted by the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, which bumped it down to fifth place.
5. "The Chronicles of Narnia" (franchise)
Walt Disney Pictures & 20th Century Fox, 2005-2010
Average Inflation-Adjusted Domestic Gross Per Film (2012): $199 million
"The Chronicles of Narnia" is a series of children's fantasy books written in the 1950s by C.S. Lewis. It's been adapted several times for several different mediums, including television, radio and the stage, but it wasn't until 2005's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" that it was brought to movie theaters.
The first film in the franchise grossed $292 million domestically, the equivalent of $339 million in 2012 dollars. However, subsequent films, such as 2008's "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" and 2010's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," failed to replicate the success of the original, and plans to adapt the remaining four books in the series are currently on hold.
See the full slideshow: 10 Highest Grossing Fantasy Movies
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