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Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s foray into the animation business hopes to score another win with the release of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, which opens nationwide on Friday–the birthday of the late author.
Lorax is widely expected to win the weekend crown and possible match or better the $38.1 million debut of Paramount’s Rango on the same weekend a year ago (directed by Gore Verbinski, Rango won the Oscar for best animated feature on Feb. 26).
The second new wide release of the weekend is Warner Bros.’ found-footage comedy Project X, about a group of teenage boys who document an out-of-control house party. The R-rated film, made for a modest $12 million, is expected to open in the mid teens, but could hit $20 million if word of mouth is good.
The other headline is Oscar winner The Artist, which the Weinstein Co. expands from nearly 1,000 screens to more than 1,700, hoping to parlay its top Academy Award wins into additional business. The black-and-white silent film has grossed nearly $33 million to date domestically.
The Lorax cost under $70 million to produce and is the third movie from Universal and Illumination after box office hits Despicable Me and Hop.
Illumination’s Chris Meledandri produced the film, which marks his second Dr. Seuss production after Horton Hears a Who!, which he made at Fox when running Fox Animation.
Tracking is strong for Lorax following an aggressive marketing campaign by Universal that included more than 70 global promotional partners.
Overseas, Lorax only opens day and date in the United Arab Emirates. It will begin its international rollout in earnest next week.
Project X, produced by Todd Phillips and Joel Silver, was directed by Nima Nourizadeh from a script Michael Bacall and Matt Drake. The film opens at midnight Thursday.
Warners waged a nationwide casting call for the R-rated pic, which stars Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown.
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