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Posted at 04:08 PM ET, 03/20/2011

BOX OFFICE: Still-strong ‘Rango’ on the tail of ‘Limitless’

For the second straight March, the twinned powers of Johnny Depp and CGI are powering more than their share of the box office.

Paramount/Nickelodeon’s “Rango” grossed $15.3-million to finish second to “Limitless” ($19-million) for the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. Gore Verbinski’s animated tale of a cowboy chameleon has now grossed $92.6-million domestically and $139-million globally, according to — meaning in just three weeks, the film has surpassed its $135-million production budget.

Last March, Depp starred in Tim Burton’s live-action/CGI “Alice in Wonderland,” which rode a $116-million March opening to more than $1-billion in global gross.

This year, though, the box office is proving more slackerly than the pot-smoking, potty-mouthed CGI alien in the new film “Paul” (which opened, by the way, to a pretty fair $13.15-million).

According to Reuters, year-to-date ticket sales are down 20 percent — and attendance is down 21 percent — compared to last year, when both “Alice” and “Avatar” were going strong.

(“Limitless,” starring Bradley Cooper, won the weekend despite not even cracking the $20-million mark. Plus, last week’s champ, “Battle: Los Angeles,” plummeted nearly 60-percent to gross $14.6-million and finish just ahead of the new film “The Lincoln Lawyer,” starring Matthew McConaughey.)

And then there’s the other end of the current animation fare, commercially speaking: Disney’s “Mars Needs Moms” grossed $5.3-million this weekend and has now made $15.4-million against a $150-million production budget — putting it on track to become one of the most expensive box-office disappointments ever.

IT TAKES TWO TO ‘RANGO’: Why the animated Depp hit is a very, very good film

THE ‘RIFFS INTERVIEW: ‘Mars Needs Moms’ author BERKELEY BREATHED buckles in for his Hollywood voyage

By  |  04:08 PM ET, 03/20/2011

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