Lorax trumps John Carter at US box office
Animated character Once-ler, voiced by Ed Helms, is shown in a scene from Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Picture: AP Photo/Universal Pictures.

Dr Seuss' the Lorax has easily beaten Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter at the weekend North American box office.

Studio estimates on Sunday put Universal Pictures' The Lorax at number one for the second straight weekend as the animated adventure based on the children's book took in $US39.1 million ($A36.88 million). That raised its 10-day domestic total to $US122 million, making The Lorax the top-grossing movie released this year.

John Carter, based on Tarzan creator Burroughs' tales of the interplanetary adventurer, opened in second place with $US30.6 million. That's an awful start given the whopping $US250 million that Disney reportedly spent to make John Carter, which also earned generally poor reviews that will hurt its long-term prospects.

The movie's salvation could come overseas, where John Carter opened in 55 markets with $US70.6 million, giving it a worldwide total of $US101.2 million.

The stronger international business helps, but that worldwide total still pales compared to global debuts of $US200 million and up for many modern blockbusters.

"We would have hoped for more considering the larger economics of the film but are still encouraged with how it's been received by audiences that have seen it and hope to see that generate positive word of mouth for the balance of the run," said Dave Hollis, Disney's head of distribution.

The Warner Bros teen comedy Project X held up well in its second weekend with $US11.6 million to finish at number three and raise its domestic haul to $US40.1 million.

Elizabeth Olsen's horror tale Silent House, released by Open Road Films, opened modestly at number four with $US7 million. Olsen plays a young woman terrorised inside her family's spooky summer home.

Eddie Murphy's comedy A Thousand Words, a leftover shot in 2008 and finally dumped into theatres by distributor Paramount, was a dud at number six with just $US6.4 million.

The movie features Murphy as a fast-talking literary agent and neglectful family man who gets a lesson on the important things in life after discovering he has only a thousand words left to utter before he dies.

A Thousand Words was so bad it had a perfect score on the film critic site Rottentomatoes.com: all of the 37 reviews compiled there for the movie were negative.

John Carter at least managed 49 per cent favourable notices of the 170 reviews compiled there. That's still not a recipe for staying power at the box office, particularly with such a bad opening in the United States.

"If you just take the domestic number, it's not a very pretty picture," said Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box office tracker Hollywood.com. "But if you look at the worldwide opening weekend of a hundred million dollars, that's pretty solid."

John Carter casts Friday Night Lights co-star Taylor Kitsch in the title role as a 19th century Civil War veteran whisked away to Mars, where he falls for a beautiful princess and becomes a hero in the red planet's own civil war.

Disney executives noted that the movie had a 25 per cent uptick in domestic business from opening day Friday to Saturday, saying it was a sign that audiences were talking up John Carter to friends.

But the movie drew only 41 per cent of its viewers from the under-25 crowd, indicating that Hollywood's key audience of young action fans was not interested.

Overall domestic business rose again as studios continued their 2012 box office roll. Revenues totalled $US140.5 million, up 8.7 per cent from the same weekend last year, according to Hollywood.com.

Receipts have climbed every weekend this year, with domestic revenues inching above $US2 billion so far in 2012, an 18 per cent increase over last year's.

Estimated ticket sales are for Friday through to Sunday at US and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com.

1. Dr. Seuss' the Lorax, $US39.1 million.

2. John Carter, $US30.6 million

3. Project X, $US11.6 million.

4. Silent House, $US7.01 million.

5. Act of Valor, $US7 million.

6. A Thousand Words, $US6.4 million.

7. Safe House, $US5 million.

8. The Vow, $US4 million.

9. This Means War, $US3.8 million.

10. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, $US3.7 million.

The West Australian

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