Box Office: ‘The Lorax’ and Its $70m Weekend Could Change Movie History

Maybe it was the message. Maybe there are so many people out there just dying to hear how trees save us all, how we have to take a stand for what we believe, how it’s our Earth, too. Maybe people just can’t wait for the summer movie season to become a year-round period, but we’ll get to that in the weekend analysis below. Or maybe they just thought the Lorax was cute. Whatever the reasoning behind it, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax took top honors at the box office this weekend, and it did so with a fury.

There’s a healthy dose of shock that comes with learning the film topped the opening weekends for How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Jim Carrey, not Boris Karloff – The Cat in the Hat – that one’s not so much a shock as it is appropriate – and Horton Hears a Who! It easily becomes the biggest opening for a Dr. Seuss adaptation, which means Green Eggs and Ham starring Justin Bieber and Zach Galifianakis can’t be far behind.

That film might even come out the same weekend as Project X 2 or maybe even Project XXX, another sure-to-be sequel for a film that dropped in hard this weekend. Project X, the found footage, teen comedy stirred up the controversy late last week, some of it coming from our very own site. But Mr. Salisbury might have done the film and the people behind it, Michael Bacall and Matt Drake, a favor. Either audiences wanted to make their own opinion on a divisive subject, or Project X was striking at a demographic that didn’t care about things like morality or sexism in their teen comedies.

The $21m Project X brought in wasn’t a groundbreaking number, but it still made more than American Pie in its opening weekend. That fact speaks volumes. There have been seven total sequels to American Pie. How many do you think Project X will get?

Academy Awards were a factor in a slew of films whose box office increased from the weekend before. The Artist didn’t make enough to register in the top 10, but it did rise up 24.8% to make $3.6m this weekend. It passed the $100m mark for worldwide grosses this weekend, and it’s total take is now at $102.1m. Other films that saw increases in their weekend hauls include A Separation (up 159.9%), The Iron Lady (up 22.4%), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (up 60.7%), Undefeated (up 325.8%), and In the Land of Blood and Honey (up 65.7%). I know what you’re saying. In the Land of Blood and Honey didn’t win an Oscar, but its director, Angelina Jolie, sure made headlines. The “leg seen around the world” is enough for Jolie’s little film to get a nice boost, and that it did.

Here’s how the weekend broke down:

  1. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax – $70.2m NEW
  2. Project X – $21m NEW
  3. Act of Valor – $13.5m (-44.5%) $45.1m total
  4. Safe House – $7.3m (-32.4%) $108.3m total
  5. Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds – $7m (-54.8%) $25.7m total
  6. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – $6.5m (-51.1%) $85.2m total
  7. The Vow – $6m total (-39.4%) $111.6m total
  8. This Means War – $5.5m (-34%) $41.3m total
  9. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – $4.5m (-49.5%) $44.8m total
  10. Wanderlust – $3.8m (-41.1%) $12.4m total

Thanks to Dr. Seuss – and I’m sure the fine people at Illumination Entertainment will be taking much of the credit, as well – this weekend saw the biggest opening March weekend in history. The previous record holder was 2004 when The Passion of the Christ started it three-weekend run in the #1 spot, but this past weekend speaks more for the state of the industry in 2012 than it does The Lorax versus The Christ.

We’re at a time where studios are looking for that one movie that hits big, driving the start date of the summer movie season up a full month or two or three. Fast Five all but guaranteed the end of April is the launch for the season, but that may have already been trumped here. With The Lorax coming on strong and John Carter hitting next weekend – it’s sure to be another summer-level, blockbuster opening, and 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games, and Wrath of the Titans follow with each, consecutive weekend after that – the new start of the summer movie season could very well become the first weekend in March. Those low periods are starting to dry up. Before long, it’ll all just be a series of highs. It’ll take years before it becomes the norm, but people talking about it then will have to look to 2012 as the year it all began.

Also, Silent House and A Thousand Words drop next weekend, but most eyes will be on either The Lorax or John Carter.

We’ll be back later in the week to see how the weekend is shaping up.

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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