'Lorax' beats Disney Mars epic at box office

Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:02pm EDT
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Dr. Seuss movie "The Lorax" stayed firmly planted at No. 1 on box office charts over the weekend, easily trumping the debut of Walt Disney Co's expensive sci-fi flick "John Carter."

The animated "Lorax" notched its second win in a row with $39.1 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates released on Sunday.

"John Carter" opened in second place with $30.6 million, a low number for a hoped-for blockbuster. While the 3D space adventure grossed more than double that amount overseas, Disney is left with a big hole to fill just to break even. The film cost an estimated $250 million to produce, plus tens of millions more to market.

"John Carter" added $70.6 million from international markets, for a global total of $101.2 million. Movies typically take in their biggest haul over the first weekend and see sales slip by at least 40 percent the following week. Studios split box-office receipts with theaters.

Heading into the weekend, Wall Street analysts predicted Disney would lose tens of millions of dollars on the film. Evercore Partners analyst Alan Gould on Friday estimated a $165 million loss.

Audiences gave the movie a "B+" in polling by survey firm CinemaScore, and domestic sales gained 25 percent from Friday to Saturday, said Dave Hollis, Disney's executive vice president for motion picture sales and distribution.

While "we appreciate the larger economics of the film, we are encouraged by how the film has been received" by audiences, Hollis said.

"John Carter" is based on a century-old book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan. The movie stars Taylor Kitsch from TV's "Friday Night Lights" as an ex-military captain who is transported to Mars and tries to end the planet's civil war.   Continued...

Cast member Taylor Swift attends the premiere of the 3-D animated film "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" in Los Angeles, in this file picture taken February 19, 2012. REUTERS/Phil McCarten/Files