It's the story that entertainment reporters has been
flogging since last Fall. How terrible the advance tracking on "John Carter" reportedly was. Which is why it was rumored that Walt Disney Studios was getting
ready to take a $100 - $165 million write-off on this new Andrew Stanton film.
But then a curious thing happened. "John Carter"
finally opens this past Friday on 3,746 screens and only sells $9.8 million
worth of tickets. But then comes Saturday, during which "Carter" actually
saw a 26% uptick in business.
"So what's so significant about that? Well, let's take
a look at what happened to "TRON: Legacy" over its opening weekend
back in December of 2010. That Joseph Kosinski film sold $17.5 million worth of
tickets over its first day in domestic release, but then saw its box office
fall off by 14% as Friday gave way to Saturday.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
You get what's going on here yet? Business fell off for
"TRON: Legacy" because -- thanks to social media -- people were able
to quickly get the word out that this long-awaited sequel was kind of a
disappointment. Whereas with "John
Carter" this past weekend, moviegoers actually used Facebook & Twitter to tell
friends & family that this epic sci-fi film was a lot better than they had
Don't get me wrong. "John Carter" is far from out
of the woods. With estimated production costs of $250 million and an additional
$50 - $75 million spent on promotion, this Walt Disney Pictures release will
have to earn over a half billion dollars worldwide before this
set-on-the-Red-Planet adventure then officially makes it into the black. More to the
point, there's no guarantee that this past Saturday's uptick in domestic ticket sales will be
more than a one time thing.
But given how well "Carter" has been doing
overseas (Opening day-and-date with the North American version of this Andrew
Stanton movie, "John Carter" has earned $70.6 million so far in
Europe, Asia and Latin America), Mouse House managers are now somewhat
hopeful that this Walt Disney Pictures may actually be able to overcome its
earlier poisonous advance buzz and eventually eek out a profit.
That said, after both "Mars Needs Moms" and
"John Carter" under-performed when they were released in early March,
don't expect Disney to schedule any more sci-fi-themed projects to be released
in this particular slot. From here on in, look for the Mouse to reserve this
time of year for big fantasy films more in the style of Tim Burton's
"Alice in Wonderland." With "Oz the Great and Powerful"
scheduled to be released to theaters on March 8, 2013, while
"Maleficent" (i.e. that "Wicked" -like reimagining of
Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" which will supposedly star Angelina Jolie
as the Mistress of All Evil while Elle Fanning is now allegedly in talks to
play Briar Rose / Princess Aurora) tentatively slated for this exact same slot in
March of 2014.
Mind you, there are those at Disney who say that the Studio
is never going to see another billion dollar earner released in this particular
window. That "Alice in Wonderland" did as well as it did back in
March of 2010 thanks -- in large part -- to the fact that this Tim Burton film
was the very first major studio release in 3D to follow "Avatar" into theaters.
And given that moviegoers had so enjoyed the cinematic experience of visiting
Pandora in three dimensions ... Well, that's why audience then turned out in
droves three months later to journey down Disney' s CG rabbit hole and meet
Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.
And speaking of "Avatar" ... If you've been visiting various Disney discussion
boards over the past week, you've probably already read the rumors that the
"James Cameron's World of Avatar" project is in trouble. Or -- worse
yet -- that this proposed DAK addition has imploded / been cancelled entirely.
Copyright Lightstorm Entertainment / Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Well, don't believe the rumors, folks. I reached out this
past Thursday night to (Sorry. I'm not allowed to give you this person's name),
a VP of Communications for Disney Parks and Resorts, and flat-out asked him/her
about these "World of Avatar" cancellation stories. What I was told
was that this rumor-that's-currently-making-the-rounds is untrue. "It's a
bad story, Jim," my source told me. "Don't believe it."
Of course, if that's really the case ... Then the next
question is why would someone be putting a false story like this out there?
What is there to be gained by floating the rumor that Disney & James
Cameron might now be on the outs?
When I learn more about these Pandora-is-kaput rumors, I'll be
sure and share that info here. But in the meantime ... What are your thoughts on "John
Carter" ? Did you get to see this Andrew Stanton film over its opening
weekend? If so, how do you think this cinematic version of Edgar Rice Burroughs'
classic tale will fare at the box office
long term? Do you think that this past weekend's positive word-of-mouth will actually
be enough to overcome the past 12 weeks of poisonous buzz?
It's not that the movie was awful. I saw it and liked it, but then again, I didn't like it enough to tell others about it, or to purchase the $20 bluray when it rolls out in a few months. The movie would have been much better had it been edited with a 30-45 min less runtime. The visuals were fascinating but the story ( which had tons of source material) seemed to drag the entire picture down. This isn't to say it was Stanton's fault. I think it is a as good as it could be given Disney's less than successful run at Sci-Fi movies. I think it's safe to say that Disney won't be picking up anymore futuristic scripts anytime soon. The reason the box office numbers were/are low is not a problem of word of mouth (though it couldn't hurt) it's Disney's attitude toward marketing it. To say marketing was a "colossal failure" is a complete understatement. As a marketing manager and graphic designer; I was flabbergasted with how Disney went about promoting the movie.
I think the reason why the box office numbers were so low, was because the average moviegoer knew nothing about the movie going in. Web chatter has helped, and positive word of mouth can only improve it's ticket numbers, but it's still DOA no matter how you slice it. Sorry.
As for the Avatar-Land. I honestly don't see it. If this was pushed much earlier say back in late 2011 I think it would have garnered a more positive fan-based response. After having re-watched it, I can see it working but only as a ride, not an entire land. It's just not Disney-enough. And I think after the initial announcement and enthusiasm of a Pandorafied world has died down. It's clear to me, and others that it shouldn't be realized. The fan base of Avatar is all but diminished, and the diehard Disney fans were never eager to visit Pandora anyway. When I first heard this news, I immediately knew this was a last minute ploy aimed at Universal execs, and not a announcement for Disney's park guests. If anything. I think this decision will also fall flat, proving once again that Disney's heads are out-of-touch with it's consumer base.
What was wrong with Beastly Kingdom?
I don't understand this article. I don't think you can compare the box office performance of Tron with this film. It bombed and bombed big time, the reviews even tell us it's a stinker, why be an apologist for it?
Also I've haven't read a thing that supports your claim that social media (Twit/FB) impact either of these films. Nor would Disney spend that kind of money relying on those platforms. It's a huge bomb and I'm interested in hearing what Lasseter has to say abou it.
Whatever this means for Disney, I sure hope this is the end for Stanton. I must be the only person on Earth who thought his previous two films were light on story, (though the first half of WallE was pretty good.) After booting Zemeckis out of the studio for Mars Needs Moms' performance, one must wonder what their next move will be...
I hope the performance of JC is a wake up call for the studio: make REAL family friends entertainment, not all these PG-13 Lord of the Rings-ish fanboy films. Something with broad appeal will be very much appreciated.
Aw man, I was really pumped about the cancellation of Avatarland. Don't get me wrong, it would look like a good idea on paper, but the lasting power of such an attraction is questionable. Not to mention it's awkward placing in DAK, regardless of how many animals are in the actual film.
There are several articles out right now that say that the movie's horrible marketing was Stanton's doing. Apparently he was given final approval of marketing the film, and he resisted all of the marketing and trailer suggestions by MT Carney. It if this is true, it makes sense that she quite so abruptly before her contract was done with Carter.
Anyone have any inside info about this?
The John Carter books aren´t known very well in Europe so I don´t think that would help. The overal comments in my little country are kind of positive but it´s not a must see movie and it gets a 7 out of 10. Disney life action movies are often presieved as very ´safe´ and because of that boring.
Avatar was a hit (everywhere) but it sure isn´t a classic. It was the themepark experiance in a cinema. Thats why it did well, not because of the awesome story or characters. The next one will probably loose it´s novelty but will still rake in some cash. Will it be enough of a pull to visit a themepark in the US for it (Harry Potter sure is), I don´t think so.
I'm not seeing where this positive word of mouth is even supposed to be coming from - the movie got mediocre reviews at BEST and, even on a site like this one, the overwhelming sentiment in the comments seems to be "meh". I'm not even convinced that they'll break even on this one, even with the international box office. $25 million for the first weekend is NOT a good sign.
As far as Avatar goes, there's still a part of me wondering why Disney is pouring so much money into an expansion based around a movie that hasn't existed long enough to show any kind of staying power. Harry Potter had sustained success over a decade and the books aren't going to go anywhere, so that's one thing. Avatar...I wouldn't be surprised if those rumors do pan out, but we'll see.
John Carter was fun but with what ticket prices are and my circle being so ungeeky, I think it's Black Cauldron all over again. I'm sure it was easy to greenlight something like He-Man with Disney quality but even in the days before $10-20 movie tickets, why would you bother with something that a, parents don't want to see and b, something close enough can be watched on tv.
I actually left work early yesterday afternoon to see John Carter. I hadn't talked to a soul who had seen it, and with such polarizing reviews and awful buzz, I went to see what the fuss was about. Know what? It was actually darn good. Dense and convoluted at time for folks like me with no knowledge of the internal mythology, but amazing to look at, surprisingly well acted, and a nice open/closed ending; even without a sequel, it's self-contained. I'd recommend it. But I'd agree with other posters who commented on the marketing. I didn't see ANYTHING that would make me want to see it from marketing alone. And dropping "...of Mars" was boneheaded. John Carter could be about a Southern lawyer or a cheap designer clothing label. Kind of a cowardly move from Disney in the wake of "Mars Needs Moms," I suppose.
Check it out for yourself before it's totally swamped by The Hunger Games. I saw it in 2D - my experience with retrofitted 3D films is not so good.
Regarding Pandora? Ack. Please give us the Beastly Kingdom instead and embrace classic critters instead of here today, gone tomorrow, short-lived "fads." Pandora has nothing of the legs of Potter.
Too all those who say "Out with Avatarland", I agree, but with one addition...bring on Beastley Kingdomme!
Everyone always picks on Tron: Legacy, but I thought it was a fun movie, and it also made $400 million world wide, so it was surely profitable in the end. John Carter will be lucky to make half that much.
I read the John Carter books as a child, and the film more than met my expectations. The Prologue and Epilogue framing device worked especially well, and the Princess of Mars (Lynn Collins) was electric. The story never dragged for me, and I was pleased that the costume designs reflected the artwork in the original novels. This was a better sci-fi film than most.
Dead Dead Deadski. It's only savior now is merchandising
I loved John Carter. I'm a fan of the Burroughs books, and it was a fun movie. My wife and stepson also enjoyed it. It's a winner as an adventure film, I think. There are two things that make me scratch my head that also could have hurt the performance of this movie. 1) They removed the Pixar name from the movie title. That would have had a bigger impact on box office because there's a trust factor involved with Pixar (I don't think people would have gone in expecting Toy Story or Up because of the trailers that would have been in place.) and 2) they removed "Of Mars" from the title. I'm speculating that they were so freaked out about the Mars Needs Moms performance that they thought it would be a detraction. Nope. He's John Carter of Mars.
Just my 2¢. Interesting article!
It does seem like a decent enough film was lost in the horrible marketing. Hard to overcome that kind of immense inertia, especially as most reviews weren't glowing. And Avatar-land? If it goes as smoothly (ho, ho) as Hyperion Wharf (remember that?), no-one should be holding their breath. It just seems big projects somehow aren't Disney's forte right now. But the Art of Animation Resort may well prove me wrong (I hope).