Lorax Keeps Universal Riding High
By John Hamann
March 4, 2012
Openers this weekend had a lot going for them – for evidence, we simply need to look back at last weekend, when the openers were Act of Valor and Tyler Perry's Good Deeds. One didn't have to be a rocket surgeon to figure out that both films were of the "one and done" variety, where movies pack houses one weekend and leave them empty the next. Perry is known for big drops following opening weekend, and Act of Valor was a gimmick – one that shouldn't play more than one frame. That creates a vacuum at the box office, and the beneficiaries are Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, from the all-of-a-sudden hot Universal, and Project X, a party film from Todd Phillips, the man behind The Hangover.
In 1998, The Waterboy was released over the first weekend in November. At the time, Adam Sandler had only one opening weekend hit, The Wedding Singer, at $22 million. The weekend before The Waterboy opened, the box office was having one of its worst frames in history, with the top 12 films bringing in only $45.6 million (or $15 million LESS than our number one film). That weekend, Halloween was on a Saturday. John Carpenter's Vampires was the only new release of the weekend, and it earned less than $10 million. The box office vacuum had been created, and really anything was going to benefit from the void – and with Sandler coming off The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy exploded, earning huge-at-the-time $39.4 million.
Getting back to 2012, last weekend was not one of the worst frames in history, but it did have a lot of similarities to 1998. It was Oscar weekend instead of Halloween, and as I described above, it had two new releases that needed to open big – and did – because they weren't going to be around for long, regardless of whether The Lorax debuted the following weekend. Act of Valor and Tyler Perry's Good Deeds were going to perish in weekend two, creating the box office vacuum, and we are left with two films opening to a combined total beyond $90 million.
Our number one film of the weekend is Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, a film targeting the opening of another Dr. Seuss film, Horton Hears a Who, which started with $45 million in the middle of March in 2008. Universal was calling for slightly less than what Horton opened to, while less conservative estimates had it at that or just beyond, at $44-$50 million. Nobody – not even BOP's Reagen Sulewski – thought it would open to Grinch numbers, but guess what? The Universal release of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax debuted this weekend to $70.7 million – way more than the $55.1 million the Grinch did in November of 2000. Out to 3,728 venues, The Lorax had a fabulous venue average of $18,970. For a family film released this early in March, The Lorax does not benefit this weekend from Spring Break, but certainly puts itself in a position to do so over the coming weekends. The Lorax will play competition free fro the next two weekends, unless one considers John Carter of Mars to be any sort of threat (it looks like Battlefield Earth to me).