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Can positive word-of-mouth now help "John Carter" overcome its poisonous advance buzz?

Can positive word-of-mouth now help "John Carter" overcome its poisonous advance buzz?

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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.

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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 expected.

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.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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.

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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?

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Your thoughts?


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  • Looks like another stinker for Disney. At least it's being honest about John Carter's failure, unlike the Muppets.

  • Maybe the reason that there are rumors that Pandora is kaput, Jim, is because so many people thought the park was a lamebrained idea from the get-go. All I know is this: Iger didn't voluntarily talk about the attraction at the recent stockholder meeting, and he got pretty miffed when someone asked him about it. I don't know what the status of the attraction is myself, but I hope to God it IS kaput.

  • I went to see John Carter just last week.  I was expecting a huge drone of disappointment from the fans I know, from the people I listen to about what geek-friendly movies to see or skip.  But that ever happened.  Instead, the sources I trust came back from their movie viewing and had good things to say.  They were pleasantly surprised.  The movie that so many people thought was going to be a high-budget suck-fest...  wasn't.

    So I went to go see John Carter a couple of weeks after opening and saw something I have not seen for a very long time (barring blips on the curve like Harry Potter and Avatar).  I saw a *completely* full theatre.  On a Thursday night.  At the end of the movie, the audience applauded (something else I haven't seen in a while).

    I know the word is out.  $200 million dollar loss keeps popping up, and it is being tossed about as the final say.  I think, however, that this movie is going to last longer than people expect.  I think it's going to get lost under Hunger Games, but Disney has a good chance of making enough back to talk about a sequel.  Because there are a lot of people who will love a movie like this, it will just take a little time for the word of mouth to trickle down to them.

  • Our whole family enjoyed the John Carter movie a lot -- and we can't understand why it is not doing better at the theaters. Hopefull world-wide attendance will show that the film is popular enough to warrant a sequel. Lynn Collins and Taylor Kitsch did an excellent job --- the film has humor, action, romance and great effects. Just plain fun.

  • Went to see John Carter with some family and friends....our overwhelming opinion was that the movie was an awesome "ride" from the opening credits right up until the end... and were all sorry to see it end.

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