Weekend Box Office – THE LORAX Claims Highest Debut of 2012 with $70.7 Million

     March 4, 2012


We all knew The Lorax was going to be number one, and a big number one at that.  But most box office watchers were expecting the animated film to land somewhere between $49 and $59 million on its first weekend – making it easily the biggest debut of 2012.  Instead, the adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ classic has earned an estimated $70.7 million from 3,927 locations.  Not only is that the third-highest March debut ever, it also stands as the biggest animated feature debut since Toy Story 3.  In other words, this is huge.

Title Weekend Total
1 The Lorax $70,720,000 $70.7
2 Project X $20,775,000 $20.7
3 Act of Valor $13.700,000 $45.2
4 Safe House $7,210,000 $108.1
5 Good Deeds $7,000,000 $25.7
6 Journey 2 $6,925,000 $85.6
7 The Vow $6,100,000 $111.7
8 This Means War $5,625,000 $41.4
9 Ghost Rider 2 $4,700,000 $44.8
10 The Artist $3,900,000 $37

the-lorax-movie-posterFor the past two months we’ve been making a big deal about how much better the 2012 box office has been in comparison to last year’s.  So, for comparisons sake, one year ago box office watchers were heralding the end of a long, low-grossing winter with the debut of the animated Rango.  That film’s $38 million launch was good enough to make us all believe that a more-profitable spring was just around the corner. So how good is spring 2012 looking now that The Lorax has almost doubled that Rango opening?  Pretty damn.

The Lorax is the third animated release from Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment. Distributed by Universal, Illumination burst on the scene with Despicable Me in July 2010.  That film caught the box office by surprise when it opened to $56.4 million, then went on to top $250 million in the US alone.  I would have written it up as a great start if The Lorax had come close to its predecessor’s first weekend, but the folks at Illumination ended up outdoing themselves by approximately 20%.

On top of that, The Lorax is now the third highest March opening of all time, behind 2010’s Alice in Wonderland ($116.1 million) and 2007’s 300 ($70.8 million).  And, because we are fond of reminding you that Sunday morning’s numbers are estimates of what we believe will happen, it is possible that The Lorax could catch up with 300 by this time tomorrow. This morning’s $70.7 million estimate is also very close to the $70.8 million debut of 2010’s Shrek Forever After.  As the fifth highest animated opening of all-time, Shrek 4’s record is one more The Lorax could conceivably claim when final numbers are revealed.

project-x-posterAlso enjoying a bigger than expected debut this weekend is Warner Brothers’ Project X.  The R-rated ‘found footage’ feature from executive producer Todd Phillips launched with an estimated $20.7 million from 3,055 locations.  Considering that just days ago the studio was expecting something in the mid-teens from this teen-party pic, Project X looks like it’s off to a very promising start… especially promising, if the film’s reported $12 million budget is accurate.

Five days after it cleaned up at the Academy Awards, The Artist made its way back into the domestic top ten.  TWC expanded the film’s run to 1,756 locations for its fifteenth week in release.  While not a huge Oscar bump, so far the film has earned $37 million in the US and $81 million worldwide. Not too bad for a silent movie.

It probably goes without saying that, this weekend, the box office was up once again over 2011 levels.  That makes nine weeks in a row and, because audiences have fallen in love with The Lorax, I’m betting that next weekend we stay in the black.  How much John Carter will contribute to that success, I really couldn’t say.  John Carter has had some “issues” and, at this point, who can predict whether the film will be “2012’s first blockbuster” (as new TV spots claim) or the year’s first, very costly, miss.


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