‘The Lorax’ Top Film Again, Outdraws Disney’s ‘John Carter’

March 13 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg's Cris Valerio reports that Disney spent $350 million on making the film "John Carter", but it only took in $30 million dollars during its opening weekend. She speaks on Bloomberg Television's "In The Loop." (Source: Bloomberg)

“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” based on the popular children’s book, was the top film in the U.S. and Canada for a second weekend, generating $38.8 million in ticket sales and outdrawing Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s “John Carter.”

“John Carter,” produced at an estimated cost of $250 million, according to IMDB.com, came in second with $30.2 million, researcher Hollywood.com Box Office said today in a statement. Two other films opened this past weekend: the horror film “Silent House” and Eddie Murphy’s “A Thousand Words.”

The weekend pitted Universal Pictures’ “Lorax,” a film with the biggest opening weekend this year, against the first major disappointment of 2011. “John Carter,” Oscar-winning animation director Andrew Stanton’s first live-action movie, was expected to open with sales of $38.9 million, the estimate of Box Office Mojo. The film had a 51 percent negative rating from Rottentomatoes.com.

“The film didn’t seem attractive to anybody outside of hardcore science-fiction fans, and it’s not based on any material that’s very relevant right now,” Gitesh Pandya, editor of Boxofficeguru.com, said in a phone interview from New York.

“The Lorax,” by contrast, is drawing audiences because “it’s colorful, it’s funny, it’s got some interesting star power doing the voices, and there’s nothing else for kids out there right now,” Pandya said.

‘John Carter’

In “The Lorax,” written by the children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, a 12-year-old boy battles to win the affection of a girl and restore nature in his overly industrialized world.

In the process, he learns the story of the Lorax, an acerbic creature who tried to save trees from encroaching developers. The computer-animated film from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures unit features the voices of Danny DeVito, Taylor Swift and Zac Efron. The film has taken in $121.7 million since it opened on March 2.

“John Carter” tells the story of an American Civil War veteran who suddenly finds himself on Mars. Empowered with great strength because of the planet’s lighter gravity, he joins in a conflict among its inhabitants.

“Project X,” the R-rated teen comedy from Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s Warner Bros., had $11.1 million in receipts in its second week, placing third. The film, which follows three high school seniors as they plan a birthday party that explodes into a drug- fueled bash, has taken in $39.7 million since opening.

‘Silent House’

“Act of Valor,” the action picture starring real U.S. Navy SEALs, dropped to fourth from third with $7.0 million. The Relativity Media LLC film has generated $56.1 million in revenue since it opened on Feb. 24. In the film, the commandos are out to rescue a missing CIA agent played by Roselyn Sanchez.

“Silent House” had sales of $6.7 million to finish in fifth place. The film features Elizabeth Olsen as a young woman who is terrorized by an ominous presence in her family’s secluded lake house.

The movie was said to be shot in one continuous take over 88 minutes, unfolding in real time, according to the picture’s website. It is distributed by Open Road Films, the joint venture of Regal Entertainment Group (RGC) and AMC Entertainment Inc., the largest U.S. cinema chains.

Murphy’s “A Thousand Words” collected $3.2 million in sales to finish in 10th place. The comedian plays a slippery literary agent who falls under a curse that limits the number of words he has left to speak. The film, from Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures, also features Allison Janney and Clark Duke.

Coming Attraction

This coming weekend, “21 Jump Street,” starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, makes its debut. The pair go undercover as cops at a local high school to investigate a drug ring in this comedy, inspired by the TV series of the same name.

“What they’re hoping to do is get older adults who remember the TV show from the ’80s, as well as younger adults who will go in for the star power and the humor,” said Pandya. “Chances are it will open at No. 1 and knock ‘The Lorax’” out of the spot, he said.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 0.4 percent to $118 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said. For the year, box-office sales have risen 18 percent to $2.01 billion and attendance is up 21 percent.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for March 9 to March 11.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
 1 DR. SEUSS’ LORAX   $38.8    3,746  $10,370  -45   $121.7    2
 2 JOHN CARTER         30.2    3,749    8,050   --     30.2    1
 3 PROJECT X           11.1    3,055    3,647  -47     39.7    2
 4 ACT OF VALOR         7.0    2,951    2,369  -48     56.1    3
 5 SILENT HOUSE         6.7    2,124    3,136   --      6.7    1
 6 SAFE HOUSE           4.8    2,144    2,240  -35    115.6    5
 7 THE VOW              3.8    2,478    1,551  -36    117.5    5
 8 THIS MEANS WAR       3.8    1,949    1,927  -32     46.9    4
 9 JOURNEY 2:MYSTERIOUS 3.6    2,525    1,430  -45     90.6    5
10 THOUSAND WORDS, A    3.2    1,890    1,681   --      6.2    1
11 PERRY’S GOOD DEEDS   2.9    1,516    1,916  -59     30.4    3
12 THE ARTIST           2.1    1,505    1,382  -43     40.2   16

Top 12 Films Grosses

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $118.0        $117.6      +0.4

Year-to-date Revenue

     2012          2011
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $2,007        $1,697      +18

Year-to-date Attendance:     +21

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net; Zachary Tracer in New York at ztracer1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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