Maybe one of Dr. Seuss' book titles should be renamed "Greenbacks and Ham." Dead since 1991, Dr. Seuss still has the prescription for making money. The three big-screen movies based on his children's books have collected about $515 million in theaters, for a robust average of $171.7 million. "The Lorax," opening Friday, is expected to keep the good fortune going.
"It's just one of those staples that is an evergreen property," Jeff Bach, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations Co., told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. "People have grown up with Dr. Seuss. It translates well into film."
"The Lorax" follows a 12-year-old boy in love and a grumpy, orange-colored, yellow-mustachioed Lorax creature who wants to save the trees.
Bach anticipates that "The Lorax" will reap more than $40 million this weekend, boosting Dr. Seuss' impressive Hollywood track record.
The last Dr. Seuss entry, 2008's "Horton Hears A Who," cleared $45 million on its opening weekend en route to earning $154.5 in theaters, according to IMDB. In 2000, Universal began its run of Seuss films with "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," which director Ron Howard and Grinch actor Jim Carrey propelled to $55.1 million on opening weekend and $260.1 million in total U.S. grosses. The only non-hit -- didn't think we'd forget, did you? -- was 2003's roundly hissed "The Cat in the Hat," which still managed to nearly recoup its $109 million cost with a $100.4 million domestic take.
If that live-action movie with an uncomfortable Mike Myers were rebooted as an animated film, it would do twice the business, Bach estimated. ("The Lorax," with the voices of Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Danny DeVito, is animated.)
Dr. Seuss, aka Ted Geisel, has generated plenty of profit for his estate, too. On "Grinch" alone, a licensing arrangement earned his estate $10 million in one year around the release, Forbes reported.
The estate, represented by the Dr. Seuss Foundation charity, has also benefited from the more than 500 million copies of his 44 books that have sold, plus the 11 television specials and a Broadway musical. The books still sell around 3 million copies a year, and royalties from Dr. Seuss properties added up to about $11 million in 2010 alone -- a year without a Dr. Seuss movie release, according to another Forbes report. That made Geisel one of the top dead-celebrity earners.
"The Lorax" will open in more than 3,600 theaters, a Universal spokesman said. For a furry little creature, it means business.
"You can't fail with a property like this," Bach said.