Universal’s estimated opening weekend delivered by far the most resounding debut of the year-to-date as Dr Seuss’ The Lorax demolished the competition to maintain the first quarter’s hot pace at the box office.

Illumination Entertainment’s family treat collected all manner of records depending on how detailed one cares to get, perhaps the most pertinent being Universal’s biggest animated opening, the biggest launch for a book based on a Dr Seuss property and the third biggest March opening in history behind Alice In Wonderland and 300.

Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda directed from Ken Daurio’s adapted screenplay and Danny DeVito led the voice cast alongside Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Bettie White.

Warner Bros’ gross-out comedy Project X arrived in second place on $21m and that was it for new entries in the top ten, except to say that TWC’s Oscar winner The Artist earned a mediocre Oscar bump, climbing three places to number ten in the 15th weekend after expanding by 790 theatres to 1,756 on $3.9m for $37.1m. That represented a 34% revenues climb against the previous weekend.

SPC’s foreign language Academy Award winner A Separation fared far better, gaining 174% and climbing four places to 18th after expanded by 160 to 243 and grossing $1m for $3.7m in the tenth weekend.

In a good weekend for Universal, thriller Safe House consolidated its $100m-plus status by adding $7.2m to reach  $108.2m in the fourth weekend.

Next weekend’s wide releases are Disney’s sci-fi adventure John Carter with Taylor Kitsch and Mark Strong; Paramount’s comedy-drama A Thousand Words starring Eddie Murphy; and Open Road’s Sundance 2011 horror Silent House starring Elisabeth Olsen.

Estimated Top 10 North America Mar 2-4 2012
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (-) Dr Seuss’ The Lorax (Universal) UPI $70.7m –

2 (-) Project X (Warner Bros) WBPI $20.8m –

3 (1) Act Of Valor (Relativity) $13.7m $45.2m

4 (4) Safe House (Universal) UPI $7.2m $108.2m

5 (2) Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds (Lionsgate) Lionsgate $7m $25.7m

6 (3) Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Bros) WBPI $6.9m $85.6m

7 (5) The Vow (Sony) SPRI $6.1m $111.7m

8 (7) This Means War (Fox) Fox Int’l $5.6m $41.5m

9 (6) Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance (Sony) HPI $4.7m $44.9m

10 (13) The Artist (TWC) Wild Bunch $3.9m $37.1m