By Brian Fuson | Thompson on Hollywood March 4, 2012 at 1:10AM
It was a weekend of surprises with expectations surpassed across the board. Both new wide releases did better than anticipated –- especially Universal’s “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” -- and the session overall marked the ninth consecutive up weekend this year.
“The Lorax” rocked the weekend boxoffice and took the top spot as the 3D-CG animated feature reaped a stunning $70.7 million. Pre-release projections had “The Lorax” opening in the $45 to 50 million range. The record books were changed this weekend as well - it was the highest opening for non-sequel animated/family film, topping “The Incredibles” with $70.5 million; the best opening of 2012, beating “The Vow” with $41.2 million; the biggest opening for a Universal animated film besting “Despicable Me” with $56.4 million; and was a company fourth best for Universal.
Industry tracking had Warner Bros.’ “Project X” debuting in the $17-$20 million area, but the R-rated comedy grossed an estimated $20.8 million to place second this weekend.
Heading into the frame, it was expected that the overall boxoffice would be lower than the comparable weekend last year when “Rango,” “Beastly,” “The Adjustment Bureau” and “Take Me Home” opened, and could prove to be the first down weekend of 2012. But thanks to the stronger numbers for both “The Lorax” and “Project X,” as well as several solid holdovers, the weekend was up by a stout 26% and the up streak at the boxoffice continues.
Produced by Universal and Chris Meledandri's family film unit Illumination Entertainment, the opening for the latest adaptation of a Dr. Seuss property topped the debut of 20th Century Fox’s “Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!,“ which took the top spot with $45 million in March of 2008. “Horton” went on to gross $154.5 million in North America and $142.6 million internationally, for a worldwide cume of $297.1 million.
Even as film budgets seem to keep expanding every year, the reported budget for “The Lorax” of $70 million was lower than “Horton’s” $85 million production cost, which should make it a bit easier for the former to turn a profit. But “Horton” carried the slightly more family friendly G-rating, while “The Lorax” was given a PG.
Chris Renaud helmed the timely environmental fable “The Lorax,” which was first published in 1971. A young boy is given “the last Truffula seed of them all” and is asked to plant the tree and nurture it so he can grow a forest of Truffula trees. Renaud also helmed “Despicable Me,” and former Fox exec Meledandri also produced “Despicable Me,” “Despicable Me 2,” and “Hop"--a remarkable run of success.
Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate and Betty White voice the characters in “The Lorax,” which should boast legs down the road, as it picked up a stellar “A” CinemaScore, even with mixed reviews from critics. The debut marked the best opening for an animated film in quite a while, even topping “Cars 2,” which opened with $66.1 million in June of last year. Predictably, a huge 68% of the audience was comprised of kids 12 years old and under and their parents, and a large 63% of those 13 years of age and older were female.
Nima Nourizadeh 's "Project X” is already in the black as the film was made for a modest $12 million and grossed $1.2 million in midnight runs, adding to its $8.17 million Friday gross. The comedy-- about three anonymous high school seniors (newcomers Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown) who throw a birthday party which spirals out of control as word of the party spreads-- was loosely based on a true story that took place at a house party in Australia.
Warner Bros. promoted interest with moviegoers by branding the film as from the director and producer of the “Hangover” movies. With a solid debut and “B” CinemaScore (needless to say critics were harsh) “Project X” has a shot hanging in theaters.
Relativity’s “Act of Valor” landed in the third slot on its sophomore session, taking in an estimated $13.7 million, slipping a moderate 44% from its debut. The military actioner has generated an estimated $45.2 million in 10 days.
Universal’s “Safe House” was in the fourth slot with an estimated $7.2 million. The Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds starrer crossed the $100 million mark this weekend, with a cume of around $108.2 million so far.
Lionsgates’ “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds” grossed an estimated $7 million to place fifth on its second weekend in theaters, down 55% from it’s opening. The cume after 10 days in release is a disappointing $25.7 million.
UPDATE: After winning five Oscars including Best Actor and Best Picture, The Weinsteins' "The Artist" squeaked into the 10th slot with a padded estimate of $3.9 million, after adding 790 theaters. But when real figures were reported, the film fell out of the top ten. The film has totaled $37.1 million to date.