Box Office: ‘John Carter’ barely holds off ‘The Lorax’ for no. 1 Friday

How big a bomb is Andrew Stanton’s “John Carter”?  At a reported cost of $250 million plus (and that’s the conservative estimate) and tens of millions of marketing costs, the expected Disney franchise looks like it’s in trouble after only grossing $9.8 million on Friday.  At best, the cinematic adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars” should do between $26-28 million for the three-day.  Disney is hoping to avoid a write-off on the project with international grosses, but the early returns are not encouraging.  Considering how little success the studio had with previous duds “Mission to Mars” (2000) and “Mars Needs Moms” (2011), avoiding the red planet for the next few decades might be a smart move for the Mouse House.

Looking to keep the top title for the weekend is Universal’s blockbuster “The Lorax.”  The Dr. Seuss inspired animation sensation grossed another $9.6 million on Friday for a stellar $92.4 million in just eight days. “The Lorax” will become the third title to cross the $100 million mark this weekend alongside stablemate “Safe House” and Screen Gems’ “The Vow.” For the weekend, “The Lorax” could easily gross $27-29 million.

Dropping to third was the unexpected hit “Project X” with another $3.9 million and $32.5 million since its debut last Friday. The Todd Phillips produced comedy hasn’t been as controversial as even the studio might have thought, but it’s certainly having positive word of mouth with its core under 25 male demo.

Not having the horror success many would have expected is Open Road’s “Silent House.”  Debuting at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, the thriller stars familiar indie face Elizabeth Olsen, but scared up only $2.6 million for its opening day.  Even in just 1,890 theaters that’s a bit disappointing. “Silent House” should do $6-7 million for the three-day.

Fifth place went to Relativity’s “Act of Valor.” One of the few shining successes for the mini-major over the past year, “Valor” grossed $2.0 million on Friday for an impressive $51.1 million so far.

Debuting outside the top five was Paramount Pictures’ long delayed Eddie Murphy Comedy “A Thousand Words.”  Shot almost four years ago, Paramount let “Words” sit on the shelf for some time (although they insist they were looking for the proper release date).  The Brian Robbins directed comedy hasn’t aged well finding just $1.9 million on Friday.  At this point, it will be lucky to pass “Act of Valor” for fifth place by Sunday.

Look for updated weekend estimates Sunday on HitFix.