‘Lorax’ beats Disney Mars epic at box office

US actor Danny DeVito poses with ‘The Lorax’ character, during a photocall to promote the 3-D animated film ‘‘Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax’’ in Berlin March 5, 2012. — Reuters picUS actor Danny DeVito poses with ‘The Lorax’ character, during a photocall to promote the 3-D animated film ‘‘Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax’’ in Berlin March 5, 2012. — Reuters picLOS ANGELES, March 12 — 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 expensive sci-fi flick “John Carter.”

The animated “Lorax” notched its second win in a row with US$39.1 million (RM17.3 million) in US and Canadian ticket sales from Friday through yesterday, according to studio estimates released yesterday.

John Carter” opened in second place with US$30.6 million (RM91.8 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 US$250 million to produce, plus tens of millions more to market.

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

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 US$165 million loss.

Audiences gave the movie a “B+” in polling by survey firm CinemaScore, and domestic sales gained 25 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent from a week earlier. Total worldwide sales for the big-screen adaptation of Seuss’ 1971 children’s book now stand at US$123.7 million.

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

Comedy “Project X,” about three high-school kids who plan a party that spins out of control, pulled together US$11.6 million domestically. That landed the movie in third place during its second weekend in theatres.

New films make little noise

Horror flick “Silent House” had a quiet debut, pulling in US$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 US$7.0 million. The film has grossed US$56.1 million after three weekends in theatres.

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




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