‘Lorax’ beats Disney Mars epic at box office

March 12, 2012

Dr. Seuss movie “The Lorax” stayed firmly planted at No. 1 on box office charts over the weekend, easily trumping the debut of Walt Disney Co’s <DIS.N> expensive sci-fi flick “John Carter.”  

The animated “Lorax” notched its second win in a row with $39.1 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates released on Sunday. 

“John Carter” opened in second place with $30.6 million,  a low number for a hoped-for blockbuster. While the 3D space adventure grossed more than double that amount overseas, Disney is left with a big hole to fill just to break even. The film cost an estimated $250 million to produce, plus tens of millions more to market. 

“John Carter” added $70.6 million from international markets, for a global total of $101.2 million. Movies typically take in their biggest haul over the first weekend and see sales slip by at least 40 percent the following week. Studios split box-office receipts with theaters.

Heading into the weekend, Wall Street analysts predicted Disney would lose tens of millions of dollars on the film. Evercore Partners analyst Alan Gould on Friday estimated a $165 million loss. 

Audiences gave the movie a “B+” in polling by survey firm CinemaScore, and domestic sales gained 25 percent from Friday to Saturday, said Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president for motion picture sales and distribution. 

While “we appreciate the larger economics of the film, we are encouraged by how the film has been received” by audiences,  Hollis said.  

“John Carter” is based on a century-old book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan. The movie stars Taylor Kitsch from TV’s “Friday Night Lights” as an ex-military captain who is transported to Mars and tries to end the planet’s civil war.

“John Carter” is the first live-action movie from Andrew Stanton, director of Oscar-winning animated mega-hits “Wall-E” and “Finding Nemo” from Disney’s Pixar unit. 

Critics were split on the film. Fifty percent gave the movie a positive rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. 

“The Lorax,” an environmental tale about a fuzzy orange creature that guards trees, held strong in its second weekend. The movie dropped 44 percent from a week earlier. Total worldwide sales for the big-screen adaptation of Seuss’ 1971 children’s book now stand at $123.7 million. 

Overall North American (U.S. and Canadian) ticket sales outpaced 2011 for the 10th straight weekend, beating the same frame last year by 8.7 percent. Year-to-date ticket sales are running 18.3 percent ahead of 2011, according to the box office division of Hollywood.com. 

Comedy “Project X,” about three high-school kids who plan a party that spins out of control, pulled together $11.6 million domestically. That landed the movie in third place during its second weekend in theaters. 
        
Horror flick “Silent House” had a quiet debut, pulling in $7 million and taking fourth place. The movie stars Elizabeth Olsen as a young woman trapped in a lakeside house and unable to contact the outside world. A spokeswoman for distributor Open Road Films said the movie would be profitable for the company. 

In fifth place, military drama “Act of Valor” brought in $7.0 million. The film has grossed $56.1 million after three weekends in theaters. 

New comedy “A Thousand Words” starring Eddie Murphy found little to talk about, opening with $6.4 million domestically and finishing in sixth place. Distributor Paramount had forecast an opening around $5 million or $6 million for the movie, which was produced by Dreamworks with a budget of about $40 million. 

The movie bombed with critics, earning 37 unanimously negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences gave the movie a “B-” in CinemaScore polling. 

Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures released “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.” Time Warner Inc released “Project X.” “A Thousand Words” was distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. “Silent House” was released by Open Road Films, a joint venture between theater owners Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Inc. Privately held Relativity Media distributed “Act of Valor” in the United States, and Alliance Films released the movie in Canada.

Photo Credit: Disney/Frank Connor

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