Sci-fi epic scrapes up $9.8 mil; 'Lorax' projected to win weekend

Competition is fierce at the top of the domestic box office this weekend with Disney’s “John Carter” currently edging Universal’s “The Lorax” with $9.8 million to “Lorax’s” $9.6 million.

“Carter” has a lot riding on its shoulders — the outer space action epic, based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs series of novels first published in 1912, set the Mouse back a reported $250 million before P&A costs. Add to that the difficulty of marketing a film during a 3D slump without big-name headliners from a director with a strictly Pixar pedigree, and Disney’s challenge becomes clearer.

While “Carter” may be besting “Lorax” now, films that play foremost with younger male audiences usually have sharper three-day drop offs than family pics, which perform strong all the way through Sunday. “Carter” is still expected to land close to $30 million, while “Lorax’s” projected 45% drop will put it north of $38 million for the frame, stealing first.

“Project X” continues to perform for Warner Bros., earning another $4 million for third place Friday. The found footage laffer, budgeted at $12 million, has earned $38.6 million in 10 days domestically. Behind that, Open Road’s “Silent House” took fourth with about $2.6 million.

The frame’s last wide opener didn’t fare so well. At $1.9 million, Paramount/Dreamworks’ “A Thousand Words” landed in sixth, behind Relativity’s “Act of Valor,” and is expected to earn about $6 million through Sunday.

In the specialty market, CBS Films unrolled “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” in 18 locations for a per screen average of $3,216, its gross expected to top $200,000 this frame. At the same time, Roadside Attractions’ raunchy laffer “Friends With Kids” earned about $600,000 Friday from 374 locations.

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