March 9-11 Weekend Actuals

1. The Lorax (Illumination/Universal) Week 2 [3,746 Theaters] PG
Friday $9.6M, Saturday $17.9M, Sunday $11.4M, Weekend $38.8M (-45%), Cume $121.7M

2. John Carter (Disney) NEW [3,749 Theaters] PG13
Friday $9.8M, Saturday $12.3M, Sunday $8M, Weekend $30.2M

3. Project X (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,055 Theaters] R
Friday $4M, Saturday $4.4M, Sunday $2.7M, Weekend $11.1M (-47%), Cume $39.7M

4. Act Of Valor (Relativity) Week 3 [2,951 Theaters] R
Friday $2.0M, Saturday $3.1M, Sunday $1.9M, Weekend $7M (-49%), Cume $56.1M

5. Silent House (LD Entertainment/Open Road) NEW [2,124 Theaters] R
Friday $2.7M, Saturday $2.7M, Sunday $1.3M, Weekend $6.7M

6. A Thousand Words (DreamWorks/Paramount) NEW [1,890 Theaters] PG13
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $2.7M, Sunday $1.5M, Weekend $6.2M

7. Safe House (Universal) Week 5 [2,144 Theaters] R
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $2.2M, Sunday $1.2M, Weekend $4.8M (-35%), Cume $115.6M

8. The Vow (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 5 [2,478 Theaters] PG13
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $1.7M, Sunday $866K, Weekend $3.8M (-36%), Cume $117.5M

9. This Means War (Fox) Week 4 [1,949 Theaters] PG13
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $1.7M, Sunday $846K Weekend $3.8M (-33%), Cume $46.9M

10. Journey 2 (Warner Bros) Week 5 [2,525 Theaters] PG
Friday $874K, Saturday $1.7M, Sunday $1M, Weekend $3.6M (-45%), Cume $90.6M

9TH UPDATE, SUNDAY AM:  Disney just released international figures from 55 territories, representing about 80% of the foreign market where John Carter was released this weekend. It opened to $70.6M. Combined with its domestic cume, the 3D sci-fi epic has now made $101.2M. “John Carter opened in Russia on March 8, and had the highest opening day in Russian cinema history and went on to be the #1 opening weekend of the year,” the studio said “John Carter was the #1 U.S. film in all of our major opened markets in Asia, Latin America and Europe.” Globally, IMAX’s box office take this weekend was $9.5M, with Russia the standout market. (3D-crazy China opens March 16th.) IMAX accounted for 64% of North American business in 3D, or $5M, and its 289 domestic screens represented a disproportionate 17% of the film’s overall GBO. Exit studies confirmed that IMAX’s core audience of fanboys were the film’s most supportive audience.

8TH UPDATE, SUNDAY AM:  So 2012 keeps posting strong box office, and this weekend’s $140M is up +8.6% over last year. Universal’s $70M-budget holdover Dr Suess’ The Lorax is a huge #1 again. But Disney’s 3D sci-fi newcomer John Carter finished a feeble #2 considering its whopping $250+M cost. Friday’s domestic box office numbers for director Andrew Stanton’s actioner came in even weaker than predicted but rival studios tell me the loincloth epic experienced an unexpected double-digit bounce on Saturday. Clearly word of mouth, like the ‘B+’ CinemaScore from audiences, is helping although reviews were decidedly mixed. Only Monday actuals will confirm whether Disney got its “miracle” and John Carter‘s North American box office opening this weekend had a ’3′ in front of it. But that still means a massive $100+M writeoff for the parent company if this dismal opening affects the new pic’s international fortunes. The studio’s Prince of Persia, for instance, opened similarly weak in North America, then made up its domestic deficit overseas. Disney made a gigantic worldwide day-and-date push for John Carter and says Russia was especially ”very strong”. “We have some good starts in Europe, with some softer than we hoped. A few Asian territories are strong where this type of film plays well,” an exec tells me.

To summarize: this flop is the result of a studio trying to indulge Pixar… Of an arrogant director who ignored everybody’s warnings that he was making a film too faithful to Edgar Rice Burroughs’s first novel in the Barsoom series “A Princess of Mars”… Of the failure of Dick Cook, and Rich Ross, and Bob Iger to rein in Stanton’s excessive ego or pull the plug on the movie’s bloated budget … Of really rotten marketing that failed to explain the significant or scope of the film’s Civil War-to-Mars story and character arcs and instead made the 3D movie look way as generic as its eventual title… Disagree all you want, but Hollywood is telling me that competent marketing could have drawn in women with the love story, or attracted younger males who weren’t fanboys of the source material. Instead the campaign was as rigid and confusing as the movie itself, not to mention that ’Before Star Wars, Before Avatar‘ tag line should have come at the start and not at the finish. But even more I think John Carter is a product of mogul wuss-ism as much as it is misplaced talent worship. More detail to come.

Disney wasn’t the only studio mourning. Eddie Murphy has yet another bomb in DreamWorks/Paramount’s A Thousand Words which received a ‘B-’ CinemaScore. “A Thousand Words is the last live action movie to be released by Paramount that was produced by Dreamworks,” the studio made a point of telling me. Directed by Brian Robbins, the PG-13 comedy (with a zero score on Rotten Tomatoes) demonstrates the tragic degree to which reviewers and audience have deserted Eddie Murphy. Paramount marketing targeted a 4 1/2-week campaign to reach all African American adult audiences and older women. But I found that the spots never explained the movie’s premise adequately. On the other hand, no one cared. The trailer debuted last November. Lots of TV and radio were bought for female-oriented programs as well as high-profile NBA games. A week-long BET promotion released this past week along with promotions on Lifetime and Comedy Central. Paramount also made use of Tyler Perry’s popularity by piggybacking with his cable show House Of Payne and movie opening Good Deeds. Individual TV shows included BET’s The Game, VH1′s Basketball Wives, E!’s Khloe and Lamar and Ice Loves Coco. There was a “best of” Eddie Murphy content piece, with slideshows and additional videos. “With the scale of all partners combined, these placements potentially reached an audience of over 97 million monthly unique visitors online,” an exec tells me. Eddie himself did an extensive publicity campaign for the pic. And yet the movie tanked. Where Eddie’s career goes from here will be debated. He should have hosted the Oscars. Now he really needs to go back into television…

Open Road made a point of telling me it was only distributing the R-rated horror pic Silent House as “a service deal for our friends at LD Entertainment (formerly known as Liddell Entertainment”. Embarassing that audiences gave the genre film Silent House the dreaded ‘F’ CinemaScore. The film was budgeted at under $1M and and acquired by LD Entertainment at Sundance 2011 where the indie remake of the acclaimed ultra-low-budget Uruguayan film La Casa Muda (based on true events) premiered. In 2003 directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau enjoyed huge success with the low-budget thriller Open Water. Genre movie fans take their horror seriously.

Here’s the Top 10:

1. The Lorax (Universal) Week 2 [3,746 Theaters]
Friday $9.8M, Saturday $19.3M, Weekend $39M, Cume $121.9M

2. John Carter (Disney) NEW [3,749 Theaters]
Friday $9.8M, Saturday $12.3M, Weekend $30.6M

3. Project X (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,055 Theaters]
Friday $3.9M, Saturday $4.5M, Weekend $11.5M, Cume $40.1M

4. Silent House (LD Entertainment/Open Road) NEW [1,890 Theaters]
Friday $2.6M, Saturday $2.7M, Weekend $7M

5. Act Of Valor (Relativity) Week 3 [2,951 Theaters]
Friday $2.0M, Saturday $3.1M, Weekend $7M, Cume $56.1M

6. A Thousand Words (DreamWorks/Paramount) NEW [2,124 Theaters]
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $2.7M, Weekend $6.3M

7. Safe House (Universal) Week 5 [2,144 Theaters]
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $2.2M, Weekend $4.9M, Cume $115.7M

8. The Vow (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 5 [2,478 Theaters]
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $1.7M, Weekend $4M, Cume $117.6M

9. Journey 2 (Warner Bros) Week 5 [2,525 Theaters]
Friday $850K, Saturday $1.8M, Weekend $3.6M, Cume $90.7M

10. This Means War (Fox) Week 4 [1,848 Theaters]
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $#1.6M, Weekend $3.7M, Cume $46.8M

4TH UPDATE, FRIDAY 5:30 PM: Nothing changed. My sources are still predicting box office results for Walt Disney Studios’ John Carter (playing in 3,749 theaters) around $9.5M to $11M today and $27.5M to $33M for the weekend. For a smaller budget film, that would be considered a good opening — but not one costing $250+M. That’s well behind  Universal’s holdover hit toon Dr Seuss’ The Lorax (3,746 theaters) which based on the noon averages will finish its second weekend with between $38M and $40M, an excellent hold of -46%. Today’s numbers for the $75M-budget Illumination Entertainment fare are estimated between $9M and $9.5M but will rise significantly on Saturday because of the parents-with-kids bump.  As for other major releases today, Paramount’s A Thousand Words (1,890 theaters)  sstarring Eddie Murphy and Open Road’s Silent House (2,124 theaters)appear about $10M for the weekend.

2ND UPDATE, 9:15 AM: Disney wants me to know that The Avengers trailer that broke records online last week is going up on John Carter in theaters this weekend. It’s a blatant attempt to use the enormous anticipation for the Marvel movie to pump up what box office predictions say are the sagging fortunes of Finding Nemo and Wall-E director Andrew Stanton’s live action turkey. John Carter‘s biggest problems, aside from the fact that no women want to see it, is its inability to attract young males — which is Marvel’s sweet spot. (What’s weird is that as recently as midweek, Walt Disney Studios told me it had no plans to play The Avengers trailer with John Carter even though that move worked well when Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight Rises footage unveiled with for Paramount’s Mission: Impossible 4.)

UPDATE 8:50 AM: Disney just told me that John Carter has made $13M so far overseas with the biggest news from 3D sci-fi-loving Russia where the movie had the highest opening day in history with $6.5M. The studio is reporting solid starts in Asian markets. But rival studios are warning me of soft starts in Europe.

FRIDAY 8:30 AM: It looks like the moviegoing public is going to bury this 3D sci-fi actioner just as everyone thought. So don’t expect any eulogies from me. The studio is expecting only $24M-$30M despite a whopping  budget of $250M, and this start of $500K midnights is weak considering that cost. Rival studios tell me that foreign numbers are starting out soft as well. Disney is uncharacteristically mum despite planning a gigantic worldwide day-and-date push for John Carter with all the frills no matter how dismal its prospects look. All in, this could mean a $100M writeoff for the Walt Disney Co. Box office for this bomb is making rival studios just a little too gleeful considering that probably 1,000 of their Hollywood brethren were gainfully employed during a dismal economy.

Priceless ‘John Carter’ Email From Disney
‘John Carter’ Tracking Shockingly Soft: “Could Be Biggest Writeoff Of All Time”

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.