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Weekend Box Office: ‘The Lorax’ Tops Again, While ‘John Carter’ Fulfills Its Prophecy & Underperforms, Underwhelms Domestically

Weekend Box Office: 'The Lorax' Tops Again, While 'John Carter' Fulfills Its Prophecy & Underperforms, Underwhelms Domestically

There’s no real joy in reporting on a massive bomb. Mostly because, why hate? Usually the participants involved will cry into piles of hundred dollar bills while you return to your menial workday job, so gloating seems like a waste of energy. It’s especially disconcerting when it comes from someone like Andrew Stanton, who previously directed “Wall-E” and was making his transition to live action with the uber-expensive “John Carter.” Analysts have been predicting doom for a long time now, in a way fueling the negative buzz with their irresponsible reporting, leading to a soft opening only slightly surpasses similar boys-n-sand actioner “Prince of Persia,” and that’s mostly due to 3D prices. ‘Carter,’ it must be said once more, was much more expensive, as that film cost $200 million, and some peg the Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation at much higher than the reported $250 million price tag.

Of course, some at Disney are more than happy to write the film off, since it’s a by-product of the reign of retired exec Dick Cook. In other words, it’s very much like the parent saying, no, guys, we don’t need to talk about Kevin. Still, Disney, vainly hoping to appeal to modern boys who equate Disney with princesses, is going to bank harder on Marvel now that ‘Carter’ likely isn’t spawning a franchise. Disney is purposely limiting the amount of films it produces per year, so every hit counts, and when they reportedly let someone as green (as far as live action) as Stanton to go reshoot heavy to corral the ‘Carter’ story, they’re clearly throwing bad money after even worse money.

The “John Carter” ad campaign is going to be remembered as something of a boondoggle, as they could not make this picture attractive to the wide audience it needed. The adventure element looked too similar to the pulp films that were inspired by Burroughs’ early twentieth century writings, and when they tried to emphasize the “Carter was first” angle, they only alienated younger audiences who equated the picture with older, more antiquated storytelling. As a result, analysts predict the studio may lose something in the neighborhood of $165 million if the film is as received overseas as tepidly as it has been domestically (but with $70 million hauled in this week internationally, there is mild hope for this film to possibly break even). Not many silver linings here, though at least star Taylor Kitsch has two more big studio lead roles in the coming year. Unfortunately they’re in the bonkers-sounding “Savages” and the expensive, expected-to-be-awful “Battleship.” Eeeech.

The Lorax” continued to dominate the marketplace, managing a decent drop to stay atop the box office for a second straight week. But “The Hunger Games” is coming in two weeks, and next week brings older teen-adult-skewing “21 Jump Street.” In other words, the “John Carter” audience could be drawn and quartered completely by the time ‘Hunger Games’ does its expected $80-$90 million opening, and “The Lorax” could very well weather the storm.

No-star experiments “Project X” and “Act of Valor” stayed in the top five, both turning solid profits. ‘X’ is one of a number of no-budget hits this year, and a sequel has already been announced. Curious to see if the same will occur for ‘Valor,’ which looks like a one-off even as it approaches a $65-$70 million final tally. Who knows. They’ll never run out of Real Acts Of Valor to adapt. 

Silent House” and “A Thousand Words” both flopped, despite one getting an aggressive push by an up-and-coming studio, the other released by a conglomerate who couldn’t care less. Open Road, who debuted “The Grey” to big numbers earlier this year, couldn’t find a solid hook for their marketing campaign, and Elizabeth Olsen still isn’t a noticable face for most audience-goers, which normally doesn’t matter for genre projects unless the star is front and center, as Ms. Olsen was here. And ‘Words,’ dumped onto the marketplace by Paramount at less than 2,000 engagements, looked and smelled like a leftover. This is Eddie Murphy‘s third starring role in the last four years, and the other two didn’t crack $6 million in their first three days.

Safe House” and “The Vow” are closing their runs as the year’s most successful domestic releases. Sandwiched between them is future basic cable fixture “This Means War,” and finishing the top ten is “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which is quietly about to surpass its predecessor’s domestic take, having long demolished its overseas numbers. It’s the year’s biggest global hit. And no, we don’t know anyone who has seen it.

In indie theaters, “Friends With Kids” benefitted from importing half the cast from last year’s megahit, “Bridesmaids.” The film brought in $2.2 million at 374 locations, a not-entirely-muscular showing, but still enough to crack the top fifteen. “A Separation” was only slightly behind, continuing an expansion to 281 locations, bringing in $8k for a $4.8 million total. With a strong debut, “Salmon Fishing In the Yemen” scored $240k on eighteen screens for a $13k per-screen average, though this is one of the first limited release pictures from CBS Films and it will be interesting to see how they handle the expansion. And the week’s biggest per-screen was for Oscar nominee “Footnote,” which grabbed $48k on two screens. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.

1. Dr. Seuss’ Cash-Grab Bonanza (Universal) – $39.1 million ($122 mil.)
2. Juan Carter a Planeta Roja (Disney) – $30.6 million
3. Project X (Warner Bros.)  $11.5 million ($40 mil.)
4. Silent House (Open Road) – $7 million
5. Act Of Valor (Relativity) – $7 million ($56 mil.)
6. Some Eddie Murphy Outtakes We Had Lying Around (Paramount) – $6.3 million
7. Safe House (Universal) – $5 million ($116 mil.)
8. The Vow (Sony/Screen Gems) – $4 million ($118 mil.)
9. This Means War (Fox) – $3.8 million ($47 mil.)
10 Journey 2: More Journeys (Warner Bros.) – $3.7 million ($91 mil.)

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