Movie Projector: 'The Lorax' hopes to plant a seed with audiences
The 3-D animated film, based on a popular 1971 book by Dr. Seuss, could debut with as much as $50 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. The weekend's only other new release, the low-cost, R-rated party movie "Project X," will probably start off with a healthy sum of about $20 million.
“The Lorax,” about an environmentally friendly creature who works to save trees, features the voices of Danny DeVito, Zac Efron and Taylor Swift. The movie was directed by Chris Renaud, the filmmaker behind 2010’s “Despicable Me.” That movie, also produced by Universal Pictures’ family unit Illumination Entertainment, opened with $56.4 million domestically and ended up grossing $543 million worldwide.
Universal spent about $70 million to finance the film, which will debut overseas next weekend. This is the second animated movie based on a Dr. Seuss property, following 20th Century Fox's 2008 release "Horton Hears A Who!" That picture, which also opened in March, collected nearly $300 million globally.
"The Lorax" has earned far more positive reviews than "Project X," which follows three teenage boys attempting to throw the biggest party in their high school's history. The film is the latest to fall into the growing found footage genre, which this year has included the horror movie "The Devil Inside" and the superhero flick "Chronicle."
While the raunchy "Project X" features no recognizable actors and was directed by newcomer Nima Nourizadeh, it has generated lots of buzz online. Warner Bros., which spent only $12 million to produce the film, has marketed it heavily to young males on Twitter and Facebook, including fan feedback in its promotional campaign.
"Project X" is a departure for Warner Bros., which is known for big-budget tentpoles. In the coming months, the Time Warner Inc.-owned Burbank studio will release such films as "Wrath of the Titans" and "Dark Knight Rises." However, the inexpensive "Project X" was a passion project for producer Todd Phillips, who is highly valued at the studio because of his work on the successful "Hangover" comedy franchise.
Meanwhile, The Weinstein Co. will expand Academy Award best picture winner "The Artist" from 966 locations to 1,756 theaters. The silent black-and-white picture -- which also took home Oscars for best director Michel Hazanavicius and leading actor Jean Dujardin last weekend -- has grossed $32.9 million since its release over Thanksgiving. In the same time period last year, Weinstein Co.'s 2011 winner "The King's Speech" had sold $114 million worth of tickets and ultimately grossed $139 million in the U.S. and Canada.
In limited release, Focus Features is debuting the drama "Being Flynn," starring Robert De Niro and adapted from Nick Flynn's 2004 memoir about homelessness, in four theaters.
Photo: A scene from "The Lorax." Credit: Universal Pictures