Box Office Prediction: Dr. Seuss Messages Won’t Keep ‘The Lorax’ From #1

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Moviegoers will see it with a group. Movigoers will see it while they eat popcorn. Moviesgoers will see it with their 3-D glasses. Moviegoers will see it while they sit on their theater seats. What did you think I was gonna say? However people see it, there are sure to be millions of eyes on the latest Dr. Seuss adaptation, The Lorax, this weekend. Enough, in fact, that it’s all but guaranteed the #1 spot on the chart. Unless there’s some Danny DeVito backlash that we’re not privy to, it seems a foregone conclusion. Sure, there’s an R-rated, high school, found footage comedy hitting theaters, as well, so the little tree hugger won’t be making all the scratch, but a majority of it?

Yes. The weekend box office is upon us, and one of these movies is bound to be a hit. If you don’t like what we’re saying, you can go right ahead and email us about it. Hey, that one actually rhymed!

The Breakdown:

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

  • Dr. Seuss is always a tasty subject when it comes to box office gold, and The Lorax won’t disappoint. 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas debuted with $55m, The Cat in the Hat opened with $38.2m in 2003, and Horton Hears a Who! launched in 2008 with $45m.
  • All three of those films had A-list, comedy stars behind them. Even with Horton Hears a Who! being animated and Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell only providing voices, their names were still on the posters. The Lorax has Ed Helms, Zac Efron, and the aforementioned DeVito. Helms has some clout with The Hangover films and DeVito is more popular now than he was 10 years ago with “It’s Always Sunny.” Still, none of these are considered A-list.
  • Universal really doesn’t care about their star power. No actors’ names are on the poster. Instead, their selling the film on its bright orange, mustached, titular character. And he’s so damned cute. Especially the mustache.
  • It’s a computer animated comedy for kids. What more needs to be discussed?
  • The March opening will dampen the weekend take a bit. Not a lot, though. PIXAR has the Summer on lock-down, and DreamWorks is moving in, but March seems to be firm planting ground for the smaller, animated companies to rake in some serious cash. It’s the month where Rango debuted with $38m last year, How to Train Your Dragon opened with $43.7m in 2010, and Monsters Vs. Aliens opened with $59.3m in 2009. The Lorax won’t have that type of impact. It’ll be more on the Rango/Horton Hears a Who! side, high $30m range to low $40m range. Let’s just say it won’t be the last Dr. Seuss adaptation we ever see.
Weekend projection: $41m (#1 on the chart)

Project X

  • Project X is aiming at a number of different sub-genres. It’s R-rated. It’s a high school comedy. It’s even found footage, which is the biggest factor here. Found footage films that get a wide release tend to open rather well. The only exception is Apollo 18, which debuted last September to $8.7m. Quarantine opened to $14.4m in 2008, but, beyond that, it’s all $20m or higher.
  • Outside of The Virginity Hit – $301,885 opening in 2010, but it only opened on 700 screens – the found footage sub-genre hasn’t branched to include comedies yet. It’s a risky move, which is why Warner Brothers hasn’t spent a ton of money promoting the film.
  • It can’t fall back on star power, either. The biggest star here is a kid who had a 10-episode run on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, not exactly someone to pull in $20m extra at the box office. There’s a reason it’s being sold primarily as “from producer Todd Phillips, the director of The Hangover“.
  • It’s being sold primarily as “from producer Todd Phillips, the director of The Hangover“. Those two words, “The” and “Hangover“, is where Project X will be making most of its money. It’ll do fine just being an R-rated comedy for high schoolers, but making that connection to a blockbuster hit is what will drive Project X not only into double digits but somewhere in the high teens. The Todd Phillips-produced School For Scoundrels debuted with $17.8m, and that was before The Hangover was even in existence.
Weekend projection: $18.8m (#2 on the chart)

The Artist

  • It’s not a new movie, but it is a newly crowned Best Picture winner at the Oscars. The Artist will reap the benefits of that win at the box office this weekend. Best Picture winners have a tendency of increasing their weekend takes the weekend after the big win, especially if they’re nowhere near a DVD/Blu-Ray release. Slumdog Millionaire‘s weekend box office rose 43.4% the weekend after it won. No Country For Old Men increased its box office by 71.1% when it won in 2008.
  • It doesn’t hurt that The Weinstein Company is expanding The Artist‘s theater count by nearly 800 screens. All of this won’t be enough to get The Artist near the top of the chart, but it’ll definitely be enough to make it rank.
Weekend projection: $5.2m (#8 on the chart)

The Chart:

  1. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax – $41m NEW
  2. Project X – $18.8m NEW
  3. Act of Valor – $11.1m (-54.5%)
  4. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – $7.7m (-41.6%)
  5. Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds – $6.2m (-59.8%)
  6. Safe House – $5.6m (-48.5%)
  7. The Vow – $5.4m (-45%)
  8. The Artist – $5.2m EXPANDING TO 1756 SCREENS
  9. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – $4.3m (-51.3%)
  10. This Means War – $4.3m (-47.7%)

The Analysis:

It won’t even be a competition. These computer animated features are roping families into theaters left and right, and it’s not looking like it’ll be stopping any time soon. The Lorax, like all the major Dr. Seuss adaptations in the last 12 years, will slice through every other movie out there. It’ll do so lovingly, with a nice, pro-Earth message, and some adorable, rhyming dialogue, but, by God, it’ll be the victor once Sunday comes.

The $109.6m weekend The Lorax will be leading here is about average for this time of year. The first weekend in March has had its leaps as with last year when Rango debuted or 2010 when Alice in Wonderland opened with $116.1m. That was just Alice in Wonderland, not the entire top 10. You have to consider that something of an anomaly, though. Those $100+m opening films play Hell with statistics. Regardless, the weekend as a whole is still in that middle-of-the-road ground before the Summer season kicks off. With John Carter hitting next weekend, it could be sooner than many think.

We’ll be back early next week to go over the weekend numbers.

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Jeremy's been writing about movies for a good, 15 years, starting with the film review column of his high school newspaper. He stands proud as the first person in his high school to have seen (and recommend) Pulp Fiction. Jeremy went on to get a B.A. in Cinema and Photography with a minor in journalism. His experience and knowledge of film is aided by the list of 6600 films he has seen in his life (so far). Jeremy's belief is that there are no bad films, just unrealized possibilities. Except Batman and Robin. That shit was awful.

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