Studio estimates Sunday put Universal Pictures' "The Lorax" at No. 1 for the second-straight weekend as the animated adventure based on the children's book took in $39.1 million. That raised its 10-day domestic total to $122 million, making "The Lorax" the top-grossing movie released this year.
"John Carter," based on "Tarzan" creator Burroughs' tales of the interplanetary adventurer, opened in second-place with $30.6 million. That's an awful start given the whopping $250 million that Disney reportedly spent to make "John Carter," which also earned generally poor reviews that will hurt its long-term prospects.
The movie's salvation could come overseas, where "John Carter" opened in 55 markets with $70.6 million, giving it a worldwide total of $101.2 million.
The stronger international business helps, but that worldwide total still pales compared to global debuts of $200 million and up for many modern blockbusters.
"We would have hoped for more considering the larger economics of the film but are still encouraged with how it's been received by audiences that have seen it and hope to see that generate positive word of mouth for the balance of the run," said Dave Hollis, Disney's head of distribution.
The Warner Bros. teen comedy "Project X" held up well in its second weekend with $11.6 million to finish at No. 3 and raise its domestic haul to $40.1 million.
Elizabeth Olsen's horror tale "Silent House," released by Open Road Films, opened modestly at No. 4 with $7 million. Olsen plays a young woman terrorized inside her family's spooky summer home.
The movie features Murphy as a fast-talking literary agent and neglectful family man who gets a lesson on the important things in life after discovering he has only a thousand words left to utter before he dies.
"A Thousand Words" was so bad it had a perfect score on the film critic site Rottentomatoes.com: all of the 37 reviews compiled there for the movie were negative.
"John Carter" at least managed 49 percent favorable notices of the 170 reviews compiled there. That's still not a recipe for staying power at the box office, particularly with such a bad opening in the United States.
"If you just take the domestic number, it's not a very pretty picture," said Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. "But if you look at the worldwide opening weekend of a hundred million dollars, that's pretty solid."
"John Carter" casts Taylor Kitsch, co-star of the high school football TV series "Friday Night Lights," in the title role as a 19th century Civil War veteran whisked away to Mars, where he falls for a beautiful princess and becomes a hero in the red planet's own civil war.
Disney executives noted that the movie had a 25 percent uptick in domestic business from opening day Friday to Saturday, saying it was a sign that audiences were talking up "John Carter" to friends.
But the movie drew only 41 percent of its viewers from the under-25 crowd, indicating that Hollywood's key audience of young action fans was not interested.
Overall domestic business rose again as studios continued their 2012 box-office roll. Revenues totaled $140.5 million, up 8.7 percent from the same weekend last year, according to Hollywood.com.
Receipts have climbed every weekend this year, with domestic revenues inching above $2 billion so far in 2012, an 18 percent increase over last year's.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "Dr. Seuss' the Lorax," $39.1 million ($1.4 million international).
2. "John Carter," $30.6 million ($70.6 million international).
3. "Project X," $11.6 million ($3 million international).
4. "Silent House," $7.01 million.
5. "Act of Valor," $7 million.
6. "A Thousand Words," $6.4 million.
7. "Safe House," $5 million ($6.1 million international).
8. "The Vow," $4 million ($2.4 million international).
9. "This Means War," $3.8 million ($9.4 million international).
10. "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," $3.7 million ($9.2 million international).
Estimated weekend ticket sales at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:
1. "John Carter," $70.6 million.
2. "This Means War," $9.4 million.
3. "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," $9.2 million.
4. "Intouchables," $6.7 million.
5. "Safe House," $6.1 million.
6. "Hugo," $5.8 million.
7. "War Horse," $5.2 million.
8. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," $4.3 million.
9. "The Artist," $3.7 million.
10. "The Devil Inside," $3.6 million.