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Disney’s John Carter Flops Hard
March 11, 2012

The New York Times has an article up on John Carter, which opened this weekend. The headline, “‘Ishtar’ Lands on Mars”, tells you the tack they’re taking. The facts are damning: “cost an estimated $350 million to make and market”, took in just over $30 million this weekend, will require Disney to “take a quarterly write-down of $100 million to $165 million”.

Because of its enormous cost and the way ticket sales are split with theaters, analysts say the film needs to take in over $600 million globally to break even.

It’s not going to happen. The article goes on to blame it all on director Andrew Stanton, who had never worked on a live-action movie before and who also controlled the marketing. It’s also asserted that Disney refuses to point the finger at him because they want to keep him happy at Pixar.

I’m kind of surprised that the piece was published, since there are a lot of anonymous comments and background. (Maybe someone’s exercising some grudges in this hatchet job?) The piece also doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the material itself is fusty, dating from a hundred years ago.

John Carter photo

At least it has pretty people...

27 Responses  
Alexa (Ladies Making Comics) writes:  

Maybe if they hadn’t insulted the intelligence of everyone who might have wanted to see it (“Men won’t see a movie with ‘Princess’ in the title, women won’t see one with ‘Mars’, can all the trailers really try to hide the fact that it’s science fiction, and don’t you dare mention the screenwriter won a Pulitzer and the director was responsible for two of the best animated films of the past decade!”)

 
Johanna writes:  

That’s the problem with spending so much on the movie — they have to get everyone to go see it to make enough money, and that means watering down the appeal.

 
Dave Roman writes:  

I thought John Carter was about as good or bad as James Cameron’s Avatar…and that movie made a billion dollars!

I remember well linked to article in the NYT claiming Pixar made the biggest mistake of their life with the movie UP. They were confident no kids would see it and pointed a lot of fingers and saying Disney stockholders didn’t approve etc. Of course, this article was published before the movie came out and made a ton of money and won an Oscar. Seems like someone there wants Disney/Pixar to fail.

 
Jennifer Hachigian writes:  

I saw JOHN CARTER in 2D at the theater last night. I thought it did an absolutely terrific adaptation of the 100-year old source material.

If word-of-mouth doesn’t help it in theaters, I hope JOHN CARTER finds a second chance on home video and streaming markets.

 
James Schee writes:  

That’s a shame, as I just came from the movie and thought it was really great fun.(you’d love Deja, Johanna smart, funny strong woman who despite the Dynamite comic covers is well covered the entire movie)

One thing these companies may need to consider, is stop spending insane amount of money on marketing. 350 Million is way too excessive, a movie has to be one of the largest grossing movies of all time to make that back.

 
Dave Roman writes:  

I also forgot to mention that the screening of John Carter I went to was sold out. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie with a packed crowd! I seem to end up at a lot of films like Secret World of Arrietty and Arthur Christmas where there’s 5 or less people at my local theater. :(

 
Steely Dan writes:  

Haven’t seen it. Have no interest in seeing it. Haven’t liked anything that Andrew Stanton worked on at Pixar.

That said, I agree with the Forbes article James linked to. The money is from overseas markets now, and I have a hard time imagining it failing economically in the end (even if it flops in the U.S.). I could be wrong, but those have been the trends for the past decade. Just like in the oil market (where demand is coming from China and India), the U.S. consumer is no longer top dog. The international market is where the money is.

 
Johanna writes:  

That is a very interesting article. I especially like the part where the writer says, not in these words, “all those other journalists are lazy and unlike them, I am smart”. (Actual quote: “it’s obviously far easier to just continue quickly repeating an established narrative than do the heavy lifting of sorting through the data and drawing more nuanced conclusions.”) Seriously, the point about “foreign receipts now accounting for 60-70% of the average “big” film’s total box office” is a significant one. It’s just another field where the US is no longer driving the bus.

 
Rob Barrett writes:  

It’s a wonderful B-movie romp; the majority of the bad reviews smell to me of people sharpening their knives for reasons other than the actual quality of the film.

 
James Schee writes:  

I thought some of the reviews saying that they had seen this movie before, were kind of interesting on a personal note. It reminded me of when I first read Watchmen a decade after it’d been published. I felt like it was something I’d read before, so I had to understand its historical place.

 
Mentor's Camper writes:  

“cost an estimated $350 million to make and market”

What marketing? I don’t think I saw a single trailer on television leading up to it’s opening. All the previews I saw were on comic book sites or youtube. As late as thursday I talked to friends who had never heard of John Carter.

I really enjoyed it. It had a clunky beginning but quickly took off and became very entertaining. I kept thinking, looking at several young children in the audience, how lucky a kid would be if John Carter was his first movie experience.

 
Sallyp writes:  

Interesting. In reading some of the reviews, it appears that people who KNOW the character, who have read the books and such, really like the movie. The “critics” on the other hand do not.

 
Johanna writes:  

So they should offer paperback novels when you buy a ticket? :) That’s actually not a bad giveaway idea, but it would require preordering your movie admission so you could study up.

 
Barney writes:  

The audience at the theater I saw it at was fairly enthusiastic during the showing. If word of mouth still has any affect with people I expect “John Carter” will have a better 2nd weekend.

 
Johanna writes:  

That would certainly show the nay-sayers!

 
Jennifer Hachigian writes:  

For folks interested, most of the earlier books are out-of-copyright and free to download from ManyBooks.net or in Kindle format from Amazon.com. They’re wonderful pulp fiction with generous helpings of violence and nudity. Start with A PRINCESS OF MARS and enjoy. :^)

 
Shamus writes:  

I went to see John Carter this weekend without many expectations. The trailers didn’t really make it look to engaging, however what I saw was a fantastic movie. It had mystery, adventure, humour, action, romance, intrigue and charisma. I had the feeling of being entirely transported to this other reality. Barsoom was thick with it’s own cultures, traditions, architecture, religions, technology and lifeforms. Even the acting was much richer than I had anticipated. I would readily go see this again and for my tastes was just about perfect as a fantasy epic. I would love to see a sequel but I’m guessing that’s not likely. I’m just glad this one got made and was so well-done.

 
Jennifer Hachigian writes:  

“I’m just glad this one got made and was so well-done.”

Same here.

 
Rob Barrett writes:  

Wishing for a sequel isn’t always a good idea: look what happened to the Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean, two lovely standalones whose completed stories were undermined by dollar-driven sequels. I can see where Stanton was setting up future films involving the fight against the Therns to free the Solar System, but the movie as it stands is complete in and of itself. We can assume that John’s Martian adventures will go on even if we never see them again.

 
James Moar writes:  

“I can see where Stanton was setting up future films involving the fight against the Therns to free the Solar System”
I think he was setting up the story of the second book, The Gods of Mars, with a stronger emphasis on the Martian religion and the journey down the river Iss than I remember from A Princess of Mars. The Gods of Mars involves Carter returning to Mars at the end of the Iss, and finding out Martian Paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

 
Kat Kan writes:  

Everyone I know who has seen the movie has recommended it; they all enjoyed it a lot. My LCS owner urged me to see it, and said I’d love Dejah Thoris. So, I’ve talked my family into accompanying me on Sunday.

 
vid writes:  

I thought the title of the movie was boring and meaningless. If you read this book you’d know who the character is but for everyone else, John who? Just sounds like a random name pulled out of nowhere.

 
Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] though, at how upset everyone is getting over losing a few million dollars, given the scale of current film disasters.) Instead, what surprises is the casual acceptance of varying sexual partners and business [...]

 
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[...] Or is this a way to make marketing feel better after they took some of the blame for the failure of John Carter? [...]

 
John Carter Blu-ray, DVD Announced » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] has announced that John Carter will be coming to DVD and Blu-ray on June [...]

 
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[…] 2012. John Carter (which was “of Mars”, until see previous note) tanks so badly that it costs the company […]

 
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