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‘Lorax’ bests ‘Carter’ at domestic B.O.

U toon earns $38 mil at home; Disney sci-fier is solid worldwide

“John Carter” saw an underwhelming $30.6 million domestic bow, but its international total is promising news for Disney, with $70.6 million from 55 territories.

Domestic bragging rights went to Universal’s “The Lorax,” with $39.1 million in its second frame, down a limited 44%. U’s third film from inhouse toon hitmaker Illumination Entertainment already stands tall, with an estimated domestic cume approaching $122 million.

The toon has barely begun playing internationally, with 58 markets yet to open over the next five months. It has cumed $1.8 million from six territories.

Based on its domestic tracking, the media and bizzers questioned whether “Carter” could become profitable. It’s too early to rule on profitability, but Disney execs are heartened by the film’s performance overseas, where the studio mounted an aggressive day-and-date rollout, accounting for 80% of the international marketplace. “Carter” bows in China this Friday, followed by Japan on April 13.

Though Europe performed softly for “Carter,” Russia was a particular coup for the pic, as it scored the mar ket’s all-time biggest opening day.

“While, of course, we appreciate the general economics of the film, we’re encouraged by how it’s being received by general audiences and how it translates throughout the course of its run,” said Disney distribution exec Dave Hollis, referring to its B+ CinemaScore rating.

Stateside, “Carter” performed at the high end of domestic projections, which along with “Lorax,” helped boost weekend totals approximately 5% over the same frame last year. Still, “Carter” landed far below “Lorax’s” boffo $70 million bow last weekend.

This weekend’s two remaining wide Stateside newcomers, horror pic “Silent House” and Eddie Murphy vehicle “A Thousand Words,” saw muted results in the mid-to-high single digits.

Silent House,” from Open Road Films, collected a projected $7 million through Sunday, while “A Thousand Words,” the final DreamWorks film to be released domestically via Paramount, grossed an estimated $6.4 million.

Roadside Attractions’ aggressive rollout of adult comedy “Friends With Kids,” at 374 locations, yielded at strong $2.2 million three-day gross. The film saw a snappy 53% Friday-to-Saturday uptick, indicating strong word-of-mouth. Roadside plans to expand “Kids” to 600 runs next weekend.

Also performing well at the specialty B.O., CBS Films’ “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” scored a better-than-expected per-screen average of roughly $13,000 from 18 U.S. engagements, totaling an estimated $240,000. “Salmon Fishing,” which skewed overwhelmingly toward women over 50, rose even higher than “Kids” on Friday vs. the previous day, up an impressive 86%.

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Classics’ Oscar-nommed Israeli pic “Footnote” debuted Friday at two runs, with a weekend per-screen average of $24,038. IFC’s docu “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” did nearly as well at the same number of playdates, averaging $21,750 per screen.

Brawny 3D perfs

After last year’s 3D low point in the 40 percentile range, it seems auds are jumping back on the 3D bandwagon.

A string of 2012 pics including $200-million plus grosser “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” “Lorax” and this weekend’s “Carter,” had 3D percentages as high as 74% from 3D. That’s an impressive outcome given that the first two pics were mostly family driven.

“Carter” with a 62% 3D share, including 17% from Imax, is a significantly better share than for example, Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” debut with last May with 46% from 3D and 9% from Imax. Disney said “Carter” will do better in 3D overseas, particularly in Russia and China. Imax reported $9.5 million for “Carter” globally. (Remaining overseas 3D stats won’t be available until later this week.)

Domestically, “Carter” benefited from drawing in a less 3D-resistant fanboy audience, with men accounting for 64% of its opening. Over-25 auds, however, represented 59% of the pic’s weekend gross — not terribly surprising considering the 100-year-old history of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original John Carter character.

B.O.’s tepid counterbids

Though “Carter” skewed mostly male, the weekend’s other wide openers primarily played to women.

“Silent House” drew an overwhelmingly under-35 crowd, with 80%. “A Thousand Words,” which received a B- CinemaScore rating, scored most of its debut from filmgoers over 25.

Budgeted at $40 million, “Thousand Words” debuted higher than Murphy’s most recent starring vehicles: “Imagine That” bowed to $5.5 million in 2009, while 2008’s “Meet Dave” earned $5.3 million opening weekend. Still, “Words” is in a tough spot profitability-wise considering neither of the other two films cracked $20 million domestically.

Open Road joined forces on “Silent House” with LD Entertainment; the latter company acquired the film last year at Sundance for just north of $6 million, including a minimum P&A commitment of $3 million.

Besides “Lorax,” the B.O.’s other top holdovers included Warner Bros.’ R-rated party pic “Project X,” which ranked No. 3 with an estimated $11.6 million for a Stateside cume of $40.1 million. Relativity Media’s “Act of Valor” tied with “Silent House” for fourth place with $7 million, bringing its domestic tally to $56.1 million.

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