Box Office Report: 'The Lorax' Roars Out of the Gate, Eyes $16 Mil Friday

"The Lorax"

The kids film could gross as much as $55 million for the weekend; "Project X" doing solid business in its debut.

Universal and Illumination Entertainment's foray into the animation business continues to pay off with a stellar start for  Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.

Early Friday returns suggest the pic could hit $16 million on Friday and $55 million for the weekend (box office observers caution Friday's number could come in a bit lower, or a bit higher). The film's better-than-expected performance is welcome news for the animated marketplace, which struggled last year as overall moviegoing slumped.

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Dr. Seuss, who would have turned 108 this year, published The Lorax in 1971. The big screen adaptation is voiced by Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Ed Helms and Betty White.

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.

Heading into the weekend, tracking was 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.

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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, grossed a strong $1.2 million in midnight runs and so far is keeping pace with projections for a debut in the midteens.

Project X, produced by Todd Phillips and Joel Silver, was directed by Nima Nourizadeh from a script Michael Bacall and Matt Drake.

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Warners waged a nationwide casting call for the R-rated pic, which stars Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown.