Chris Meledandri‘s Illumination Entertainment is working on a new animated version of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas for Universal Pictures. Pete Candeland is set to direct with Meledandri producing. A writer has not yet been named. The Grinch‘s most recent screen appearance was Universal’s 2000 live-action version with Jim Carrey but Chuck Jones’ animated version from 1966 remains one of the most popular Seuss adaptations. The new version of The Grinch is Meledandri’s third Dr. Seuss project, and Illumination has developed a good relationship with Dr. Seuss author Theodor Geisel’s widow Audrey Geisel who will again serve as executive producer. Meledandri previously made Horton Hears A Who through Fox and Blue Sky Studios and The Lorax via Illumination for Universal.
EXCLUSIVE: After topping the box office the past two weeks with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Universal Pictures, Illumination Entertainment’s Chris Meledandri, and Audrey Geisel will tap the Dr. Seuss library for another classic title, and this one is a surprise. They will begin developing a 3D CG-animated feature based on The Cat in the Hat. Rob Lieber has just been set to write the script. Meledandri will produce and Geisel will be executive producer.
Aside from Green Eggs And Ham and How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Cat In the Hat is arguably the most famous story generated by Theodor Dr. Seuss Geisel. The surprise comes from the fact that Universal turned it into a live action film in 2003. That film grossed $101 million domestic and $133 million worldwide, it cost about $109 million to make and was considered a big disappointment. While a live action Grinch was a big hit for Universal, Meledandri and Mrs. Geisel believe that the Cat has more than one life on the big screen. It is a very popular ride in Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, a ride that was always based on Dr. Seuss’s original drawings. The feeling among Meledranadi, Mrs. Geisel, and Universal Films chairman Adam Fogelson and co-chairman Donna Langley is that Seuss’s works connect better in animation, prompting Universal’s decision to make this the next project.
Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Rob Riggle and Betty White will provide the principal voices for The Lorax, the Illumination Entertainment 3D CGI animated film. The pic is based on the Dr. Seuss tale that follows the tale of a forest creature who shared the enduring power of hope.
DeVito is the Lorax, and Helms will provide the voice of the Once’ler. Efron will voice Ted, the young boy who searched for the Lorax, and Swift will play Audrey, the girl of his dreams. Riggle plays King O’Hare, and White plays Ted’s Grammy Norma. Universal Pictures is distributing. Illumination’s next release is Hop, which opens April 1.
Box Office Update: Owen Wilson Bullied; ‘Horton’ No. 1 Again; ‘Tyler Perry’s Browns’ #2, ‘Shutter’ (#3), ‘Drillbit’ (#4)
SUNDAY AM: Fox’s family fare holdover Horton Hears A Who! rose to No. 1 again this Easter Weekend with a big $25.1 million haul, this time with $10.2 million Friday, $9.2 million Saturday and an estimated $5.6 million Sunday from 3,961 venues. That gives the Dr. Seuss toon a big box office cume of $86.4 mil after only a week in theaters. Meet The Browns starring writer/director/actor Tyler Perry’s alter ego Madea as well as icon Angela Bassett opened in 2nd place for Lionsgate with $20.2 million this weekend from 2,006 plays. As we’ve seen before with Perry’s pics, 65% of his moviegoers tend to be African-American, though there is still plenty of crossover because of family-oriented themes. Perry further cements his status as one of Hollywood’s most reliable box office brands, A surprise for No. 3 was New Regency’s Thai horror film Shutter, because of its PG-13 rating and aggressive Internet ad campaign. Distributed by Fox, the newcomer took in $10.7 million from 2,753 dates. All easily bested Paramount’s Owen Wilson starrer Drillbit Taylor which placed only 4th: hurt by the star’s refusal to do publicity and the fact it plays young, the PG-13 tween comedy from Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen opened with $10.2 million despite a wide release of 3,056 runs. Meanwhile, I hear that Fox Searchlight/The Weinstein Co’s new release Under The Same Moon, from writer/producer Ligiah Villalobos, had a record-breaking opening weekend for a Spanish language film, with $2.6 million in 266 venues here. It was also crushing in Mexico, making $1.6 million from 350 screens – - #3 behind only Horton and 10,000 …
SUNDAY AM: Even with all those half-price kiddie tickets, Fox’s Horton Hears A Who? trampled the competition to finish No. 1 with a huge $45.1 million haul. According to Media By Numbers, the Dr. Seuss toon posted the best opening weekend so far this year (exceeding the $40 mil from Paramount’s Cloverfield in Monday-through-Friday take). All the Hollywood studios hope Horton has broke the current disappointing cycle ”where moviegoing has not been as big as any of us in the business would like,” one exec told me. <The G-rated family fare garnered great reviews and lived up to its expectations for a mammoth weekend; it made $13.2 mil from 3,954 theaters on Friday, a huge $18.5 mil thanks to heavily attended kiddie matinees Saturday, and an expected $13.3 mil Sunday. Horton‘s box office was helped by Fox’s savvy synergy when the two big name actors voicing the characters got a big plug on Wednesday night’s American Idol (where Jim Carrey looked an ass in an elephant costume while Steve Carell greeted contestants at the film’s premiere). The toon has a clear berth for the next couple of weeks, too. “Especially given no family competition over Easter, we will play to a big multiple,” a Fox exec told me.
In the 2nd spot, Warner’s holdover 10,000 BC dropped an expected 54% domestically to earn $16.4 mil for the weekend and a new cume of $61.2 mil. This weekend’s Never Back Down was the first developed, financed, produced …
FRIDAY 6:30 PM: That’s according to first word on really early box office estimates coming in to me tonight. And expect humongous Saturday kiddie matinees for this toon. My box office gurus are now saying Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who! from Fox is on track to finish the weekend as a big family fare No. 1 with $45M-$50M.
THIS WEEKEND: It’s going to be “all Horton all weekend” including mammoth Saturday kiddie matinees. Because not even Hollywood can screw up Dr. Seuss so completely that audiences stay away. But also thanks to big name actors voicing the characters and that big plug on American Idol (where Jim Carrey was an ass in an elephant costume). “It was lame. But it was still 30 million people, or whatever the number is, watching the kids from American Idol at the premiere shaking hands with Steve Carell,” said one rival studio marketing exec. My box office gurus say Fox’s G-rated Horton Hears A Who! should finish the weekend in the $40sM or $50sM in really wide release (3,954 theaters) even though the studio is trying to lower expectations to “only $35M and maybe $40M if the weather breaks right for us.” But the reviews are great (87% on Rotten Tomatoes). The toon has a clear berth for the next couple of weeks, too. “Especially given no family competition over Easter, we will play to a big multiple,” a Fox exec told me last night.
Funny, even rival studios hope the pic does well. “Because we have been in a cycle where moviegoing has not been as big as any of us in the business would like. It’s not a permanent thing. But we’re waiting for that one movie that unlocks the gates again. Horton …