Lorax beats new Mars epic

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Los Angeles - The Dr Seuss movie The Lorax stayed firmly planted at No. 1 on box office charts over the weekend, easily trumping the debut of Walt Disney Company’s expensive sci-fi flick John Carter.

The animated Lorax notched its second win in a row with $39.1-million in US and Canadian ticket sales from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates released on Sunday.

John Carter opened in second place with $30.6-million, a low number for a hoped-for blockbuster. While the 3D space adventure grossed more than double that amount overseas, Disney is left with a big hole to fill just to break even. The film cost an estimated $250-million to produce, plus tens of millions more to market.

John Carter added $70.6-million from international markets, for a global total of $101.2-million. Movies typically take in their biggest haul over the first weekend and see sales slip by at least 40 percent the following week. Studios split box-office receipts with theatres.

Heading into the weekend, Wall Street analysts predicted Disney would lose tens of millions of dollars on the film. Evercore Partners analyst Alan Gould on Friday estimated a $165-million loss.

Audiences gave the movie a “B+” in polling by survey firm CinemaScore, and domestic sales gained 25 percent from Friday to Saturday, said Dave Hollis, Disney's executive vice president for motion picture sales and distribution.

While “we appreciate the larger economics of the film, we are encouraged by how the film has been received” by audiences, Hollis said.

John Carter is based on a century-old book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan. The movie stars Taylor Kitsch from TV's Friday Night Lights as an ex-military captain who is transported to Mars and tries to end the planet's civil war.

John Carter is the first live-action movie from Andrew Stanton, director of Oscar-winning animated mega-hits Wall-E and Finding Nemo from Disney's Pixar unit.

Critics were split on the film. Fifty percent gave the movie a positive rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes.

The Lorax, an environmental tale about a fuzzy orange creature that guards trees, held strong in its second weekend. The movie dropped 44 percent from a week earlier. Total worldwide sales for the big-screen adaptation of Seuss' 1971 children's book now stand at $123.7-million.

Overall North American (US and Canadian) ticket sales outpaced 2011 for the 10th straight weekend, beating the same frame last year by 8.7 percent. Year-to-date ticket sales are running 18.3 percent ahead of 2011, according to the box office division of Hollywood.com.

Comedy Project X, about three high-school kids who plan a party that spins out of control, pulled together $11.6-million domestically. That landed the movie in third place during its second weekend in theatres. - Reuters


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