‘Lorax’ Tops Weekend Box Office With $70.7 Million in Sales

A scene from the animated feature "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax." The film, from Universal Pictures, opens March 2 across the country. Source: Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment via Bloomberg

“Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax,” based on the popular children’s book, was the top weekend film in the U.S. and Canada, taking in $70.7 million for Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures in the biggest opening weekend this year.

The teen comedy “Project X,” from Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros., had sales of $20.8 million in its debut, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Sales from the two films helped sustain a nine-week surge in ticket sales that began Jan. 8, when the surprise hit “The Devil Inside” led the weekend box office. Revenue this year is $1.8 billion, up 19 percent from 2011, and attendance has increased 21 percent, according to Hollywood.com.

“Right now, the box office is on fire, there’s no question about it,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com’s box-office division. “There’s been an incredible variety of films. The old adage ‘Something for everybody’ really has held true.”

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

DeVito, Swift, Efron

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 features the voices of Danny DeVito, Taylor Swift and Zac Efron.

“The Lorax” was expected to have opening-weekend sales of $44 million, the estimate of BoxOffice.com. Previous Dr. Seuss films, such as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Cat in the Hat,” have drawn between $38 million and $55 million in their opening weekends, Dergarabedian said.

By comparison, Disney-Pixar’s “Cars 2” had sales of $66.1 million in its debut weekend last June and went on to take in $191.5 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to Box Office Mojo.

“‘The Lorax’ absolutely blew away expectations,” Dergarabedian said yesterday by telephone. “There really hasn’t been a big animated film for the family audience this year. This was like the manifestation of the hunger of the family audience to have an animated film.”

“Act of Valor,” last weekend’s top movie, fell to third place with sales of $13.7 million. The Relativity Media LLC film, featuring active U.S. Navy SEAL forces, has generated $45.2 million in revenue since it opened on Feb. 24.

SEAL Teams

Directors Scott Waugh and Mike McCoy used the active-duty SEALs to create realistic action scenes, such as a raid on a drug compound. In the film, the commandos are out to rescue a missing CIA agent played by Roselyn Sanchez.

SEAL teams, elite U.S. military units, gained worldwide attention for the May 2011 raid on a safe house in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The film cost $12 million to make, according to Hollywood.com.

“Safe House,” from Universal, took in $7.21 million to maintain its fourth-place rank. The film, starring Denzel Washington as a rogue CIA agent, has generated $108.2 million in four weeks.

“Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds,” distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., was fifth with $7 million in its second week. Perry, who also wrote and directed the movie, plays a businessman whose scripted life takes an unexpected turn after he does a favor for a single mother, played by Thandie Newton.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 27 percent to $153.5 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said. The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for March 2-3 and estimates for yesterday.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
1 DR. SUESS’ THE LORAX $70.7   3,729  $18,965   --    $70.7   1
2 PROJECT X             20.8   3,055    6,800   --     20.8   1
3 ACT OF VALOR          13.7   3,053    4,487   -44    45.2   2
4 SAFE HOUSE             7.2   2,553    2,825   -34   108.2   4
5 GOOD DEEDS             7.0   2,132    3,283   -55    25.7   2
6 JOURNEY 2              6.9   3,060    2,263   -48    85.6   4
7 THE VOW                6.1   2,826    2,159   -38   111.7   4
8 THIS MEANS WAR         5.6   2,342    2,402   -33    41.5   3
9 GHOST RIDER            4.7   2,487    1,890   -48    44.9   3
10 THE ARTIST            3.9   1,756    2,221    34    37.1  15
11 WANDERLUST            3.8   2,002    1,875   -42    12.4   2
12 GONE                  3.1   2,186    1,395   -36     8.9   2

Top 12 Films Grosses:

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $153.5        $121.1        +27

Year-to-date Revenue:

     2012          2011
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $1,822.6      $1,531.1      +19

Year-to-date Attendance:        21%
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