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Box office preview: 'The Lorax' should see plenty of green this weekend

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Lorax Movie Helms

So far the box office is up 16 percent compared to last year, and Hollywood will try to keep the good times rolling by offering two new movies that should perform well with their respective target audiences. The weekend’s big winner will undoubtedly be the 3-D animated film Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, which will most likely score the year’s best opening so far. Project X, the found-footage flick about one seriously out-of-control high-school party, is more of a question mark due to its hard R rating.

Here are my weekend predictions:

1. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax: $48 million

The Lorax has all the ingredients of a big hit. Universal has been advertising the film everywhere you look, it has the name-recognition of Dr. Seuss (whose 108th birthday would have been tomorrow), it’s from the production company (Illumination Entertainment) that made the surprisingly successful Despicable Me, and it’ll benefit from all those 3-D and IMAX surcharges. Furthermore, the PG-rated movie cost a relatively modest $70 million to produce, so it doesn’t have to put up Alice in Wonderland-type numbers to be profitable.

The last Dr. Seuss adaptation, 2008’s Horton Hears a Who!, debuted to $45 million. Horton featured the voices of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell — more prominent names than The Lorax‘s Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, and Taylor Swift. However, Horton wasn’t in 3-D, so it should all even out. Plus with the exception of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and the wonderful The Secret World of Arrietty, there’s hardly anything in theaters for family audiences right now, so expect them all to flock to The Lorax.

2. Project X: $19 million

Not to be confused with the same-named 1987 Matthew Broderick-Helen Hunt movie about chimpanzees, Project X follows three teenage guys who decide to throw a birthday party that ultimately mushrooms into the party to end all parties. Produced by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), this picture belongs to the found-footage style of filmmaking, which has seen recent hits in Chronicle, The Devil Inside, and all three Paranormal Activity entries. And Warner Bros. has been following the Paranormal model of marketing by hosting college screenings and building a significant online presence on Twitter and Facebook.

The tricky thing about Project X is its R rating for “crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem — all involving teens.” The demographic that will most likely want to see all of this, ahem, mayhem, is teenage boys, many of whom will be too young to buy a ticket to an R-rated film. Project X will also struggle to attract moviegoers beyond the young-adult segment. Still, it cost only $12 million to produce, so any opening in the teens will be considered an excellent start.

3. Act of Valor: $13 million

The patriotic modern-war film, which stars actual Navy SEALs, debuted to an unexpectedly solid $24.5 million last week. It also picked up an overall “A” rating from CinemaScore audiences. That’d usually translate into a small second-weekend decline, but I wonder if Act of Valor is appealing to a particularly select albeit passionate crowd. The R-rated film rose only 5 percent from Friday to Saturday, indicating that moviegoers rushed out to see it on opening day. As a result, I’m going with a larger but still respectable decline of roughly 45 percent.

4. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island: $8 million

As the only major family film in theaters for the past three weeks, Journey 2 has held up incredibly well, dropping just 27 percent and 33 percent its second and third weekends, respectively. But now it has to contend with The Lorax, which should push Journey 2‘s decline to around 40 percent.

5. Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds: $6.5 million

Tyler Perry’s past 10 directorial efforts dropped an average of 59 percent during their second weekends. I see no reason not to predict the same fate for Good Deeds, which opened to $15.6 million last weekend — slightly disappointing, at least by Perry standards.