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"The Lorax" cleans up with $70.7M box office debut

The Lorax, voiced by Danny Devito, center, stands with stands with the Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans and Humming-Fish in a scene from "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax." AP/Universal Pictures

(CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES - "The Lorax" opened big over the weekend, earning $70.7 million to score the biggest box-office debut of the year by far.

The 3-D animated family film from Universal Pictures, featuring the voices of Danny DeVito, Zac Efron and Taylor Swift, is based on Dr. Seuss' cautionary tale about the importance of preserving the environment. Of its opening haul, 8 percent - or $5.4 million - came from IMAX screens, which is on the high side for a family film.

Before this, Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams' tearjerker "The Vow" had the best debut of 2012, with $41.2 million.

Coming in second place at the box office was the R-rated "Project X," about a trio of high school misfits who throw a raging party in hopes of becoming popular. The Warner Bros. comedy made about $20.8 million, according to Sunday studio estimates.

"The Lorax" comes from the makers of "Despicable Me," - Illumination Entertainment, led by producer Christopher Meledandri - and director Chris Renaud. It actually had a bigger opening than that film, which debuted with $56.4 million in July 2010. It also scored the biggest opening for a Dr. Seuss adaptation, topping the $55.1 million that "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" made in 2000.

Read more: "The Lorax" hits theaters on Dr. Seuss' birthday

The strong showing for "The Lorax" continues a trend of movies overperforming so far this year, said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Revenues are up 19 percent from this point in 2011.

"It's so different from what we were seeing last year and especially the end of last year. Now it's like a box-office bonanza," Dergarabedian said. "What a great turnaround from where we were last year with the down-trending week after week and the lowest attendance in 15 years. If we keep up this pace, we're going to be looking at a massive summer."

This summer's releases include some highly-anticipated flicks like "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Amazing Spider-Man."

Last week's No. 1 movie, "Act of Valor," dropped to third place with $13.7 million. The action picture from Relativity Media, which stars real, active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs, has made over $45.2 million total.

"The Artist," the black-and-white silent film that won best picture at the Academy Awards last weekend, got a 34 percent bump from its Oscar victory. The Weinstein Co. movie made $3.9 million to come in 10th place, and now has grossed over $37 million total.

Find out more about this weekend's box office winners here.