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'Alice in Wonderland' opens strongly at box office

LOS ANGELES, March 5 (Reuters) - “Alice in Wonderland” set a new record for a March release at the weekend box office in North America, earning an estimated $41 million on its opening day, distributor Walt Disney Co said on Saturday.

Director Tim Burton’s 3D collaboration with Johnny Depp opened across the United States and Canada on Friday, and is also playing in about 40 foreign countries.

The North American tally ranks at No. 19 among single-day debuts, said tracking firm Box Office Mojo. The previous opening-day record for a March film was $28 million, set by “300” in 2007. The ancient epic also holds the record for an opening weekend in March with $71 million.

“Alice” looks set to smash that tally, likely surpassing $100 million, when three-day sales data are issued on Sunday. Pundits had conservatively forecast an opening weekend above $75 million. The last movie to reach that level was “Avatar,” which opened to $77 million in December on its way to world domination.

Depp stars as the Mad Hatter, while Australian actress Mia Wasikowska plays Alice. Burton’s girlfriend Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway round out the headliners as the Red Queen and White Queen, respectively. Reviews were mixed, with critics more enthused by the movie’s visual splendor than its narrative essence. (Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Mohammad Zargham)