Box Office Preview: 'John Carter' Battles 'Lorax' for Weekend Crown

12:35 PM PST 03/08/2012 by Pamela McClintock
© 2011 Disney

Andrew Stanton's pricey sci-fi epic has picked up in tracking and could cross $30 million; Eddie Murphy comedy "A Thousand Words" eyes muted bow.

Andrew Stanton'sJohn Carter could now open north of $30 million at the domestic box office this weekend, but that's likely not enough to put Disney's $250 million-plus sci-fi epic on solid ground financially.

Nor may it be enough to wrest the weekend crown from holdover Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, which opened to a stellar $70.2 million last weekend. The Universal and Illumination Entertainment film is expected to gross $35 million to $40 million in its second outing, putting its domestic cume north of $100 million in just 10 days.

PHOTOS: 'John Carter' Premiere Red Carpet Arrivals

The other big question mark is John Carter's international potential. Often, a 3D Hollywood tentpole that underperforms domestically can make up ground overseas. John Carter -- headlining Taylor Kitsch as a Civil War hero transported to Mars -- opens this weekend in virtually every foreign territory save China and Japan. It bows next week in China and in Japan on April 13.

John Carter needs to do substantial business worldwide to make up for its $250 million-plus budget.

The movie will play in select midnight runs Thursday before upping its North American theater count Friday to north of 3,500, including 290 Imax screens. Fanboys are huge fans of Imax, so John Carter should do especially well in those locations.

According to tracking, older males are by far the most interested in seeing John Carter, which marks Stanton's live-action directorial debut after turning out Pixar hits including Finding Nemo and WALL-E. Younger men are the second-most interested demo, followed by younger females and older females.

Tracking has improved slightly across all demos on the eve of the film's release, but box-office observers still believe the film will have a hard time opening much north of $30 million.

FILM REVIEW: John Carter

Two other films open wide at the domestic box office this weekend: the Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words and horror pic Silent House, starringElizabeth Olson.

A Thousand Words was made by DreamWorks before its split with Paramount and has been sitting on the shelf for four years. The comedy, which remained with Paramount, is expected to open in the $5 million range, underscoring Murphy's troubled box-office standing.

Open Road Films is distributing Silent House for Liddell Entertainment, which acquired the film at Sundance in 2011. It's expected to open at $6 million to $7 million.

There's significant action at the specialty box office this weekend with the opening of Jennifer Westfeldt's directorial debut Friends With Kids, which opens in 375 theaters domestically. Roadside Attractions acquired the comedy at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.

Friends With Kids enjoys a Bridesmaids glow because of stars Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph. Westfeldt also stars in the film, as does Adam Scott and Westfeldt's longtime partner, Jon Hamm.

CBS Films opens Lasse Hallstrom's Ewan McGregor-Emily Blunt romantic adventure Salmon Fishing in the Yemen -- another 2011 Toronto title -- in 15 theaters in seven top markets, including New York and Los Angeles.

Sony Pictures Classics debuts the Israeli drama Footnote in two theaters in New York. The movie was Israel's official selection for the foreign-language film Oscar race.

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