Channing Tatum (L) and Jonah Hill star in "21 Jump Street."

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"21 Jump Street" scored a tremendous $35 million in its opening weekend

"The Lorax" dipped 41 percent in its third weekend to $22.8 million

"John Carter" dropped by 55 percent in its sophomore frame to third place and $13.5 million  — 

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill may play totally inept undercover cops in “21 Jump Street,” but at the box office, they’re proving much more effective.

The R-rated comedy scored a tremendous $35 million in its opening weekend, enough to easily top the chart.

21 Jump Street” opened in the same range as films like “Bad Teacher” ($31.6 million), “Superbad” ($33.1 million), “Wedding Crashers” ($33.9 million), and “Scary Movie” ($42.3 million), but each of those films opened in the summer, when R-rated fare like “The Hangover” and “Bridesmaids” has traditionally captured raunch-loving audiences.

For “21 Jump Street” to earn $35 million over a weekend in mid-March is a far more impressive achievement. Indeed, only one R-rated comedy has ever debuted to higher numbers outside the summer season: “Jackass 3-D,” which started with $50.4 million in October 2010. “21 Jump Street” also opened higher than fellow TV adaptations “Starsky and Hutch” ($28.1 million), “The Dukes of Hazzard” ($30.7 million), and “Miami Vice” ($25.7 million).

The strong debut marks a return-to-form for star Jonah Hill, whose live-action comedic catalog seemed less impressive after unremarkable box office performances from “The Sitter” ($30.4 million total) and “Get Him to the Greek” ($61 million), and a slew of more dramatic roles in “Cyrus,” “Moneyball,” and “Funny People.” “21 Jump Street” finally delivered on the expectations set up by Hill’s breakout role in “Superbad,” which earned $121.5 million total in 2007.

Channing Tatum, meanwhile, scored his second straight hit after “The Vow,” which has a running total of $121.1 million. These numbers bode well for his next two releases, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “Magic Mike,” both out in June. Sony and MGM, who have a potential juggernaut franchise on their hands, spent a sensible $42 million on “21 Jump Street,” which earned a “B” CinemaScore grade from polled audiences.

In second place, Universal’s smash animated hit “The Lorax” dipped 41 percent in its third weekend to $22.8 million. After 17 days, the 3D film has found an impressive $158.4 million, already more than the last Dr Seuss adaptation, “Horton Hears a Who,” which grossed $154.5 million total in 2008. Also impressive is the film’s per theater average, which remains a robust $6,049, even in its third weekend 3-D ticket prices are certainly helping). Considering “The Lorax,” which cost $70 million to produce, is headed for a final domestic gross right around $200 million, it’s no surprise that Universal and Illumination Entertainment are now getting to work on an animated version of “The Cat in the Hat.”

Disney’s expensive misfire “John Carter” dropped by 55 percent in its sophomore frame to third place and $13.5 million. The $250 million project has now earned $53.2 million after ten days, and if it continues to play like a frontloaded fanboy flick (and it will), it will finish its run around $80 million. International receipts will need to be utterly gargantuan to save the Edgar Rice Borroughs adaptation – it’s taken in $126.1 million overseas so far.

“Project X” and “A Thousand Words” came in fourth and fifth place, respectively. “Project X” fell 64 percent to $4 million, giving the party flick a total of $48.1 million against a $15 million budget. Eddie Murphy’s “A Thousand Words” dropped by a slim 39 percent to $3.8 million, for a two-weekend total of $12.1 million. The $40 million comedy will join the ranks of “Imagine That” ($16.1 million) and “Meet Dave” ($11.8 million) as major Eddie Murphy bombs.

Over on the limited release front, Will Ferrell comedy “Casa De Mi Padre” proved to be the most caliente smaller title, drawing in $2.2 million from just 382 locations, enough for a sturdy per theater average of $5,759. “Friends With Kids,” meanwhile dipped by 26 percent to $1.5 million despite expanding from 369 to 641 theaters. Jason Segel/Ed Helms collaboration “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” proved less appealing, earning $840,000 from 254 theaters, though that was way better than Nicholas Cage thriller “Seeking Justice,” which found $260,000 from 231 theaters. Perhaps a direct-to-DVD run would have been a better option.

1. “21 Jump Street” – $35.0 million

2. “The Lorax” – $22.8 mil

3. “John Carter” – $13.5 mil

4. “Project X” – $4.0 mil

5. “A Thousand Words” – $3.8 mil

Next weekend, a little movie called “The Hunger Games” is coming out, and with some of the best tracking numbers ever seen a week before release, the hugely anticipated adaptation will likely score one of the best opening weekend’s of the year – maybe ever. How much will it earn? We’ll find out next weekend!

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