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'The Lorax' Hauls In $70 Million, Cruises To Top Of Charts


With the popularity of Dr. Seuss and computer animation, "The Lorax" turned out to be in great position over the weekend, which was enough to propel it to a year-best $70 million in opening revenue. Despite a lack of star power in its cast, comedy "Project X" was also able to find its target audience, pushing it to a very strong $20 million over the weekend and setting it up for a nice overall box office run for distributor Warner Brothers. Fresh of its success at the Academy Awards, "The Artist" also snuck back into the top ten, though it looks like it will be a short-lived boost despite its many gold statuettes.

From Illumination Entertainment, the animation studio behind hit "Despicable Me," "The Lorax" clearly looked like it was going to be in good position to make a dent at the box office, though a $70 million opening exceeded expectations and ended up as one of the top March openings of all-time; only "300" and the 2010 version of "Alice in Wonderland" have ever earned more over a weekend in March. With a per venue average just a shade under $19,000, "The Lorax" has a wide fan base supporting it right now, which should translate to fairly big weekends throughout the rest of March.

The other advantage "The Lorax" has is a general lack of competition, as there won't be another wide PG release until "Mirror, Mirror" opens on March 30th. While "Journey 2" slides, "The Lorax" should continue to clean up with family audiences for the next couple of weekends, which could give it a very impressive 17-day total in the neighborhood of $150 million domestically. With another big hit, animation studio Illumination Entertainment looks to have a significant feel for finding the family demographic, giving Pixar/Disney and Paramount/Dreamworks some major competition.

As "The Lorax" swept up family audiences, adult audiences turned out to see low-budget comedy "Project X," helping it top $20 million. Though low-budget horror films have had plenty of success commercially in recent years, low-budget R-rated comedies haven't always had an easy go, with releases like "Miss March" and "Take Me Home Tonight" showing how difficult it can be to find mainstream audiences.

But "Project X" seems to be perfectly marketed to the crowd that made "The Hangover" a cultural phenomenon, which helped it grab a very solid $6,800 per venue and $20.78 million overall. "Project X" doesn't have much positive buzz surrounding it, likely leading to a big drop-off in the coming weeks, but its sizeable opening mostly ensures that "Project X" will still end up a commercial success at the end of its box office run.

With "Project X" and "The Lorax" hitting with their target demographics, "Act of Valor" proved that it was more than a one weekend wonder. The R-rated thriller dipped just 44% from its chart-topping opening, pushing its 10-day total to $45 million domestically. With a production budget of just $12 million, "Act of Valor" is already one of the most impressive low-budget hits of the year and should be able to finish in the $60 or $70 million range in the U.S. by the time it's out of theaters.

The surprise entry into the box office top ten was "The Artist," the universally acclaimed art house favorite that just won Best Picture at the recent Academy Awards. Expanding to 1,756 total theaters, "The Artist" still only managed $2,221 per venue, showing that the masses just aren't interested in a silent film no matter the acclaim that comes with it. "The Artist" ended the weekend with a solid $37 million in the U.S. and $81 million worldwide, making it an overall hit for distributor Weinstein Co.

Next weekend, another blockbuster hopeful will hit theaters as Buena Vista's highly anticipated "John Carter" gets set for its release. From Andrew Stanton, the director of Pixar gems "Wall-E" and "Finding Nemo," "John Carter" has the promise of big-budget fantasy action, which could translate to some major box office dollars the rest of the month. Also reaching theaters next week will be Eddie Murphy's comedy "A Thousand Words" and R-rated horror film "Silent House," starring Ashley and Mary-Kate's little sister Elizabeth Olsen.

Early Studio Box Office Estimates for 3/2/12 - 3/4/12 (In Millions), [RTT Prediction]:

1. The Lorax (Universal): $70.70 [$53]

2. Project X (Warner Brothers): $20.78 [$7.5]

3. Act of Valor (Relativity): $13.70 [$11.5]

4. Safe House (Universal): $7.20 [$5.9]

5. Good Deeds (Lionsgate): $7.00 [$6.5]

6. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Brothers): $6.93 [$7]

7. The Vow (Sony/Screen Gems): $6.10 [$5]

8. This Means War (Fox): $5.63 [$4.2]

9. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Sony): $4.70 [$4.2]

10. The Artist (Weinstein): $3.90 [N/A]

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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