The Lorax
Credit: Universal Pictures
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He is the Lorax, and soon he’ll be speaking for Hollywood.

In what is becoming a common occurrence this year, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax performed even better than expected, grossing an estimated $17.4 million on Friday. That’s the best opening day ever for a Dr. Seuss adaptation, topping 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas ($15.6 million). It’s also a huge victory for distributor Universal and the young production company Illumination Entertainment, the latter of which is now three for three after the box-office success of Despicable Me and Hop.

The Lorax should finish the weekend with around $60 million — the biggest opening since last November’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1. Also worth noting is that in a day and age when most CG-animated films cost at least $100 million (if not considerably more than that), Universal spent only $70 million on The Lorax. Its future looks bright, too, as the PG-rated movie received a solid “A” rating from CinemaScore audiences. According to the market-research firm, the movie skewed female (62 percent) and young (52 percent under the age of 25).

In second place was Warner Bros.’ teen party pic Project X, which scored $8.2 million on Friday. The R-rated film is on pace for a $21 million weekend. Made for just $12 million, Project X joins The Devil Inside and Chronicle as the year’s third “found footage” hit. The movie earned an okay “B” grade from CinemaScore moviegoers, faring better with men (B+) than women (C+). Young men, who seemingly abandoned the multiplex during 2011, turned out in big numbers for Project X — 58 percent of the film’s audience was male, and 67 percent was under 25 years old.

Among holdovers, the Navy SEALs war film Act of Valor dropped 58 percent for $3.8 million on Friday, and should finish its second weekend with a little more than $12 million. The Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds thriller Safe House was down 40 percent for $1.9 million. On Wednesday, it became the year’s second movie to cross $100 million, after The Vow. Speaking of The Vow, that romance tied for fifth place with Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds. Both films took in $1.85 million yesterday, with The Vow down 43 percent and Good Deeds plummeting a typical-for-Perry 65 percent.

In 11th place, The Artist, which won five Oscars (including Best Picture) last weekend and just expanded from 966 to 1,756 theaters, rose only 27 percent for $938,000 on Friday. The $15 million production, which has so far grossed $34.1 million, is a moderate success. But it seems that no amount of accolades can turn a black-and-white silent film into a mainstream smash. And The Iron Lady, for which Meryl Streep won her first Oscar in 29 years, was up 10 percent for $202,000 (in 511 theaters).

Check back here on Sunday for the complete box office report.

1. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax — $17.4 mil

2. Project X — $8.2 mil

3. Act of Valor — $3.8 mil

4. Safe House — $1.9 mil

5. Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds — $1.85 mil

5. The Vow — $1.85 mil

The Lorax
  • Movie