John Carter Of Mars
Credit: Frank Connor
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There’s some good news and some bad news for Disney this morning. Good news: The studio’s John Carter led the box office on Friday with an estimated $9.8 million (including $500,000 from midnight showings), giving the $250 million sci-fi epic at least one moment at the top.

The bad news: It won’t last very long. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax was right behind with $9.6 million, and that movie should soar today and Sunday thanks to family audiences — last week, the animated fable jumped 79 percent from Friday to Saturday. John Carter, on the other hand, was likely front-loaded with sci-fi fans. End result: The Lorax will win the weekend with around $40 million, while John Carter will have to settle for second with about $29 million.

John Carter, which was helmed by the Oscar-winning Pixar director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E), was pegged as a potential flop months ago. Only until the very last moment did Disney’s marketing campaign get around to actually revealing the film’s story: Former Confederate captain gets teleported to Mars, where he can leap great distances due to the planet’s lesser gravity. A generic title (which was shortened from John Carter of Mars) and mixed reviews didn’t help matters either.

John Carter received a good-but-not-great “B+” rating from CinemaScore audiences, but it’s the market research firm’s demographic info that’s the most interesting. The film’s audience was 65 percent male, indicating that the picture turned off women. John Carter also skewed older, with 69 percent of the audience at least 25 years old. By comparison, only 48 percent of The Lorax‘s audience was 25 and up. Naturally, as a PG-13 film, John Carter should play older than The Lorax, but not that much older. And when asked whether the “actor in the lead role” was a “reason for attending this movie,” only 8 percent of the audience said yes, suggesting that star Taylor Kitsch wasn’t responsible for selling many tickets.

The Lorax fell 45 percent for $9.6 million on Friday — a respectable hold. Universal’s 3-D animated film has already grossed $92.5 million, and should overtake The Vow on Sunday to become the year’s biggest hit. Since budgets will be a big discussion point this weekend with John Carter, it’s worth pointing out that The Lorax cost a relatively moderate $70 million to produce.

The weekend’s two other new wide releases, Silent House and A Thousand Words, both struggled. The R-rated shot-in-one-take horror flick Silent House mustered only $2.6 million on Friday, putting it on pace for a $7 million weekend, if even that. The movie could very well drop like a rock — it became the year’s second film to receive an overall “F” rating from CinemaScore participants. The Devil Inside also earned an “F” grade, and it fell 30 percent from Friday to Saturday during its first weekend. Horror films with twist endings seem to fare particularly poorly with CinemaScore audiences, and having not personally seen Silent House yet, I can only imagine that is what’s angering moviegoers so much.

The PG-13 comedy A Thousand Words, which was shot all the way back in 2008 and then put on the shelf while DreamWorks split from Paramount, took in just $1.9 million on Friday. That is star Eddie Murphy’s worst opening day since, well, 2009’s Imagine That ($1.8 million). And the year before that, Meet Dave collected only $1.7 million its first day. In other words, these last few years at the box office haven’t been particularly kind to Murphy. CinemaScore audiences gave A Thousand Words a lackluster “B-” rating.

Among holdovers, the R-rated teen party pic Project X fell 51 percent for $4 million. It should finish the weekend with around $12 million, which would push its two-week total to a little more than $40 million. And the Navy SEALs war film Act of Valor held up fairly well its third Friday, dropping 48 percent for $2 million.

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

1. John Carter — $9.8 mil

2. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax — $9.6 mil

3. Project X — $4.0 mil

4. Silent House — $2.6 mil

5. Act of Valor — $2.0 mil

6. A Thousand Words — $1.9 mil

John Carter
  • Movie
  • 132 minutes