Monday, March 5, 2012

"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" Opens Big

Good news for feature animation! Illumination Entertainment's animated take on Dr. Seuss' 1971 classic, The Lorax, grossed $70.2 million over the weekend. This makes it the biggest debut for an animated film in March, and the 8th biggest opening weekend total for an animated film. It is also the fourth biggest opening weekend total for a non-sequel animated film, only behind The Simpsons Movie ($74 million), The Incredibles ($70.4 million) and Finding Nemo ($70.2). The attendance, however, is probably not as impressive.

This is great for many reasons. While I didn't think the film was spectacular, it still deserves to do very well. We haven't had an animated film that topped $70 million on its opening weekend since Toy Story 3 in June 2010. 2011's animated crop usually grossed less $50 million on their opening weekends, the only one that didn't was Pixar's Cars 2, which grossed $66 million last June. Something tells me that 2011 lacked an "event" film, as I've said before. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax had everything going for it: It was fun for both kids and adults, it's based on a Dr. Seuss book, and its marketing was effective. Now I thought the highest this could go on opening weekend was at least $55 million, as I had predicted it would make around $40-45 million. Instead, it blows expectations away and grosses $70 million! That's just massive.

The real reason why this is a good thing is because it's proof that animation can still do well, even with insanely high ticket prices and 3D, although I believe more people probably went to see the 2D version of the film. When I saw it in 2D, the theater was packed. Last year's disappointments seemed to imply that people were getting more choosy with what animated films they were going to take their family to see. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax isn't the only surprise of the year, several other films are doing very well, so box office is on fire at the moment. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax came out at the right time.

So how much will it make in the long run? If this were to pull Despicable Me's 4.4x multiplier, then it can gross more than $300 million domestically, making it the first March animated film to do so and the first Dr. Seuss film to pass that mark. I don't think it'll score a multiplier that big, because Despicable Me was a summer release and kids are off from school. However, being a March release didn't stop How to Train Your Dragon from pulling a 5x multiplier. If this pulls Horton's 3.4x multiplier, then it'll end up at around $240 million domestically. This has a chance to become the highest grossing Dr. Seuss adaptation, as the current record is held by Ron Howard's live-action take on How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which grossed $260 million. The attendance won't be as high, though.

Anyways, it looks like this year's animated films will do very well at the box office unlike last year's disappointments. We're only getting a couple sequels, that's it. The rest are original, non-sequel films. With Dr. Seuss' The Lorax's chances at clearing $200 million domestically, perhaps Brave, Rise of the Guardians and a few other films can land between $150 million (several animated films last year struggled to reach that amount) and $300 million. Perhaps we can see films like Frankeweenie and ParaNorman grossing more than $100 million, bringing forth a stop-motion animation renaissance of sorts. Last year, the highest grossing animated film was Cars 2, which missed $200 million by just $9 million.

Animated films doing well at the box office, especially quality films, will lead to more quality animated films in the coming years. 2010 proved that mediocre, derivative animated comedies would no longer capture audience interest, and that good animated films will. 2011 was a minor bump, so here's hoping we can quickly recover from it. While I personally felt that Dr. Seuss' The Lorax was a pleasant but above-average romp, I'm still glad that it's successful. Here's the hoping same will happen with Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, Rise of the Guardians, Frankenweenie and ParaNorman, if they turn out to be good films.

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