In a statement today Disney announced that due to the under-performance of John Carter the studio expects to make a $200m loss. Some box office analysts expected a loss of around $100-$160m, so the number is worse than expected.
The movie has taken $184m at the global box office but due to the reported $250m budget and marketing costs a total north of $600m would be needed for the movie to be profitable. There were a lot of problems here, with the budget being the main one. It didn’t need to cost that much. Then there was the marketing which failed to impress anyone until a few weeks before the film was due for release, by which time it was too late. To appeal to as many people as possible (mainly females) Disney dropped Of Mars from the title, but perhaps it would have been better to keep the sci-fi element in the title and shift the marketing to focus more on the love story between Carter and Dejah Thoris.
A March release worked well for Disney’s Alice in Wonderland back in 2010, but maybe a summer release date would have worked better for John Carter.
Some blame will have to fall at the feed of director Andrew Stanton who apparently had control over the marketing and, while it was a group effort, he failed to make a movie that lived up to his previous Pixar efforts such as Wall-E and Finding Nemo. The consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is that “While John Carter looks terrific and delivers its share of pulpy thrills, it also suffers from uneven pacing and occasionally incomprehensible plotting and characterization.” A better movie may have generated better word of mouth, but even so it would unlikely have become the event movie Disney were hoping for.
As Disney is a big studio one flop won’t impact them that badly. They have The Avengers and Pixar’s Brave set for release during the summer, and i’m sure Pirates of the Caribbean 5 will be getting the green-light soon. Hopefully lessons will be learned about spending too much and subpar marketing (although probably not).
Why do you think John Carter failed at the box office?