September 26, 2016

Animation record: The Lorax opens to $70 million

By Scott Mendelson

HollywoodNews.com: The full weekend chart HERE. See this is what happens when you have just two major cartoon during the Winter/Spring season instead of six. Last year, February, March, and April saw an onslaught on high-profile animated features, five of which opened just in March and April. Gnomeo and Juliet ($25 million opening/$99 million domestic total), Rango ($38 million/$123 million) Hop ($37 million/$103 million), and Rio ($39 million/$143 million) all did well, but were burdened by directly competing with each other. Mars Needs Moms ($6.9 million/$21 million) was one of the biggest box office bombs in modern history while the never-had-a-chance Hoodwinked: Hood vs. Evil ($4 million/$10 million) was DOA. This time around, it’s The Lorax or nothing (that second cartoon I mentioned doesn’t open until April 27th), which coupled with the absolute lack of truly new kid-friendly product and the relative disinterest in domestic audiences in Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (which was still leggy enough to gross $130 million domestic) and The Adventures of Tintin (which is no flop with $372 million worldwide), left a very large gap in the marketplace. No you can see how its $70 million opening is not *that* surprising.

At $70.7 million, the Illumination production is within striking distance of a few records if the estimate holds. First of all, the film will end up surpassing Ice Age 2: The Meltdown ($68 million) for both the second-biggest animated opening not from Dreamworks or Pixar (it easily tops any Dreamworks opening that isn’t a Shrek sequel) and the second-biggest for a non-sequel (both records belong to the $74 million debut of The Simpsons Movie). It’s also the sixth-biggest animated debut of all-time, and the biggest non-summer animated debut ever. If it makes it to $70.9 million, it surpasses 300 ($70.8 million) to become the second-biggest March opening ever, behind Alice In Wonderland ($116 million). Even if the estimate is a big high, as Despicable Me estimated $60 million but ended up with a $56 million debut 2.5 years ago, this is a huge debut and a massive win for all involved. That film plus this mighty debut for The Lorax proves that Universal is truly a force to be reckoned with (that they opened Hop to $38 million last year isn’t to be ignored either). The film debuted on a rather strategic weekend, as Friday the 2nd was Dr. Suess’s birthday, and it benefited from generally solid reviews.

The film earned 52% of its money from 3D screens and 8% from IMAX (it was the biggest animated opening in IMAX history for a non-summer/non-holiday release). 68% of the audience was made up of kids 12-and-under. Of those moviegoers age 25 and older, 74% were parents of a child under 13 years of age. Among children 12 and under, the audience was 57% female vs. 43% male. Among those 13 years and older, the audience was 63% female vs. 37% male. The film scored a massive (even for an animated film) 4.11x weekend multiplier. Fox scored a rock-solid $45 million debut with Horton Hears a Who in the second weekend of March in 2008, and that film went on to gross $154 million. Using the same multiplier, The Lorax ends up with a whopping $232 million. But, if I may speculate, considering the high audience polling (it earned an A from Cinemascore, and utter lack of competition (only The Pirates! Band of Misfits debuts between now and mid-June), as well as the lack of new releases this month (only nine), The Lorax could potentially dominate the entire pre-summer season for even higher domestic grosses. Next weekend will tell the tale.

There was only one other wide release, as the ‘found-footage’ party movie Project X debuted with $20 million. That’s right in line with the $21 million debut for Chronicle last month, and both films cost around $12 million to produce. Even in a crowded marketplace, Chronicle has crossed $60 million domestic and is about to cross $100 million worldwide. But one shouldn’t expect such legs for the poorly-reviewed, and so-far heavily front-loaded (2.5x weekend multiplier) R-rated ode to teenage debauchery. Regardless, 2012 will likely be the year when ‘found footage’ becomes more than just a kind of horror film and becomes a whole new sub-genre for telling all manner of stories. Just as we didn’t see a real comic book movie boom until a decade after Batman and we didn’t see a surge of successful kid-lit fantasy franchises until Harry Potter was rounding its victory lap, so too did the legacy of The Blair Witch Project take a decade to take effect.

There wasn’t much holdover news of note, despite the surplus of older movies in the marketplace. Last weekend’s big flop Gone had an oddly strong hold, dropping just 36% in weekend two. Still $9 million in ten days is nothing to celebrate. There was a token Oscar surge amongst the big winners still in theaters, as A Separation jumped 173% (now at $3 million), The Iron Lady jumped 27% (now at $27 million), and The Artist went up 34% after adding 790 screens (now at $37 million). Hugo still dropped a bit, but it celebrated its DVD/Blu-Ray release by crossing the $70 million mark. Good Deeds dropped 55% and crossed $25 million in weekend two. It’s going to be among Perry’s lowest grossers, but profitable none-the-less. Last weekend’s champion, Act of Valor, dropped a decent 44%, ending the weekend with $45 million, with an end-game of $70 million in its scope-sights. Wanderlust dropped 44% but is still a tank with just $12 million in ten days. This Means War is at $46 million, which would be okay if it didn’t cost $70 million to produce.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance sits with $44 million domestic but is (as expected) burning up the international box office (it’s nearing $100 million worldwide) Also at or nearing $100 million worldwide is the 3D release of Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace. Safe House crossed $100 million this week, and the Denzel Washington/Ryan Reynolds thriller sits with $108 million. It should surpass Washington’s Remember the Titans and Reynolds’s Green Lantern (both at about $116 million) in the next week. The Vow has $111 million, putting it seventh on the list of romantic dramas and fourth if you exclude those which have extensive special effects and action (Jerry Maguire tops that sub-category with $153 million). Journey 2 continues to be a steady player, although The Lorax took a bit out of its kid audience, sending the sequel down 48%. Still, it has amassed $85 million domestically and $247 million worldwide thus far.

That’s it for this weekend. Join us next weekend for the much anticipated/much-feared debut of Disney’s John Carter, as well as the opening of the Elizabeth Olsen real-time thriller Silent House and the Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memo

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About Scott Mendelson

Mendelson's Memos: The basics - 30 years old, married with one child, currently residing in Woodland Hills, CA. I am simply a longtime film critic and pundit of sorts, especially in the realm of box office. The main content will be film reviews, trailer reviews, essays, and box office analysis and comparison. I also syndicate myself at The Huffington Post and Open Salon. I will update as often as my schedule allows. Yes, I'm on Facebook/Twitter/LinkIn, so feel free to find me there. All comments are appreciated, just be civil and try to keep a level discourse, as I will make every effort to do the same. Read more at Mendelson's Memos:

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