Dr. Seuss' The Lorax delivered the largest opening weekend of 2012 to date with a far stronger than expected debut of $70.22 million. The 3D computer animated film marked the third straight over-performer for Universal and Illumination Entertainment; on the heels of 2010's Despicable Me and last year's HOP). And as was the case with both of those films, the opening weekend performance of The Lorax was even more impressive when taking into account its relatively modest production budget ($70 million) for a computer animated film. Without taking into account ticket price inflation, The Lorax achieved a number of opening weekend milestones this weekend including: the largest ever debut for an animated film from Universal (topping the $56.40 million start of Despicable Me), the largest ever debut for an adaptation of a Dr. Suess book (topping the $55.08 million start of 2000's How the Grinch Stole Christmas), the third largest ever debut for a non-sequel animated film, the third largest debut ever in the month of March and the fourth largest debut ever for Universal.
The Lorax skewed towards family audiences in a big way this weekend with parents and children 12 years and under representing 68 percent of the film's audience. Thanks in part to that family audience, The Lorax simply exploded on Saturday when it increased 78.5 percent over Friday to gross $31.29 million. That was an especially impressive daily increase when considering that the film opened with an already sizable $17.53 million on Friday. For moviegoers 12 and under, the gender breakdown for The Lorax was 57 percent female and 43 percent male. For moviegoers 13 and older, the gender breakdown was 63 percent female and 37 percent male. The Lorax received an extra boost from both 3D and IMAX admissions this weekend, which should be a positive factor for the film's holding power going forward.
The international launch for The Lorax will kick into gear towards the end of March.
Warner's Project X was off to a very nice start with a second place take of $21.05 million. The low budget R-rated comedy opened on the very high end of expectations, which were driven up thanks in part to the film's massive pre-release online buzz over the past few weeks. Project X was a bit front-loaded this weekend (after opening with $8.13 million on Friday, it registered an opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.59 to 1), but could still hold up reasonably well going forward thanks in part to potentially strong Spring Break midweek business. The film joined the growing list of low budget 2012 releases with relatively unknown casts to open with at least $20 million; a list which also includes the likes of Paramount's The Devil Inside ($33.73 million), Relativity's Act of Valor ($24.48 million) and Fox's Chronicle ($22.00 million). The audience breakdown for Project X skewed towards male moviegoers (58 percent) and heavily towards moviegoers under 25 (67 percent).
Act of Valor fell two spots and a respectable 45 percent from last weekend's first place debut to claim third this weekend with $13.70 million. The action film featuring Navy SEALs has now grossed a strong $45.11 million through ten days of release. That places Act of Valor 10.5 percent ahead of the pace of Vantage Point, which opened over Academy Awards weekend back in 2008.
Additional reporting by Phil Contrino.