Box Office: ‘The Lorax’ has no problem keeping ‘John Carter’ at bay with another $39.1 million weekend

There will be more than enough time to dissect the dismal debut of Walt Disney Studio’s “John Carter” this weekend, but the continued success of “The Lorax” is just as big a story that needs proper attention.

Based on the popular Dr. Seuss children’s book, “The Lorax” grossed another $39.1 million over the weekend pulling in a remarkable $121.9 million in just 10 days.  That makes the Universal Studios release the top grosser of 2012 so far passing “The Vow’s” $117 million mark.  Comparatively, recent best animated Oscar winner “Rango” only found $123 million overall; “Cars 2” had reached just $117.2 million in the same span during more lucrative summer months; and even Illumination and Universal Pictures stablemate “Despicable Me” had only grossed  $118.4 million over its first 10 days in 2010.  With the only major family competition on the horizon being Relativity Media’s “Mirror, Mirror” there is no reason “Lorax” can’t become the first 2011 release to crack the $200 million mark.

As for “John Carter,” Walt Disney Studios is estimating the beleaguered Andrew Stanton flick grossed $30.6 million domestically.  That might be a bit of a reach, but it could have been worse. At a reported cost of $250 million plus (and that’s the conservative estimate) and tens of millions of marketing costs, the Disney may have to write down up to $150 million against future earnings.  The studio, however, is hoping to avoid that fate with international grosses. Opening day and date in most markets across the globe, “Carter” found another $70 million with record numbers in Russia being the only real standout.  Considering how little success Disney 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.

Dropping to third was the unexpected hit “Project X” with another $11.5 million and $40 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.

Relativity’s “Act of Valor” continued its courageous campaign with $7 million estimated for the three-day which was good enough for fourth place in its third week of release.  The action flick starring real, but unnamed Navy SEALS has grossed a profitable $56.1 million for the mini-major.

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 $7 million for the weekend and reportedly earned a disastrous F Cinemascore grade from audiences.

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 grossing just $6.3 million.

In limited release, “Friends with Kids” had an unexpectedly potent $2.1 million in just 374 theaters for a stellar $5,799 average.  Roadside Attractions picked up the comedy after the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and, unlike other distributors, realized it had a lot to sell with stars Jon Hamm, Adam Scott, Megan Fox, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig among the film’s ensemble cast.  The indie will expand the comedy to over 600 screens this Friday.

Opening in just 18 theaters was another dramedy that debuted at Toronto last fall, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.”  Picked up by CBS Films, “Salmon Fishing” grossed $240,000 for the three-day with a very strong 86% bump from Friday to Saturday. The studio is also pleased the film’s $13,333 per screen beat their expected $10,000 estimate. “Salmon” expands into more markets on March 23.

New films entering the marketplace this Friday include “21 Jump Street” and, in limited release, “Jeff Who Lives At Home.”

Box office actuals are released on Monday.