Disney Now Expects to Lose $200 Million on John Carter

Well that sure didn’t take long. Despite being in theatres for less than two weeks, Disney has already owned up to the fact that John Carter is proving to be a giant failure for them. While most studios usually try to spin the numbers to their benefit. the Mouse House has already admitted defeat. They have come right out and said that they expect to lose $200 million on the movie and that it will give them a significant loss for their second fiscal quarter. I guess when the movie makes $13.5 million in its second weekend and there is a guaranteed box office giant like The Hunger Games looming ahead, it’s pretty clear that there is no real hope of recovery. Here is the official statement that they released this week:

“In light of the theatrical performance of John Carter ($184 million global box office), we expect the film to generate an operating loss of approximately $200 million during our second fiscal quarter ending March 31. As a result, our current expectation is that the Studio segment will have an operating loss of between $80 and $120 million for the second quarter. As we look forward to the second half of the year, we are excited about the upcoming releases of The Avengers and Brave, which we believe have tremendous potential to drive value for the Studio and the rest of the company.”

So why did John Carter fail? Does it all come down to a poor marketing campaign or did unfavourable reviews figure into it as well? Was it the lack of a bankable star like Johnny Depp? It does seem like a fair number of people who actually saw the movie liked it (John Carter had a CinemaScore of B+). Perhaps it is just that audiences are not ready to accept a sci-fi or fantasy film unless it comes from a well-known property, and at this point Edgar Rice Burroughs is far from a household name. Are you surprised that John Carter wasn’t a success? What is your explanation for all this?

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  • Steve Kasan

    I am surprised. Yes, I would say the marketing was not that great but you can never tell with audiences right?
    Its a shame, it really is a good movie.

  • Colin

    I can’t speak to the movie itself, but it’s the marketing 100%.

    The title is ambiguous and boring (John is one of the most boring names, Rambo notwithstanding), and nothing about the marketing seems to draw on its unique aspects.

    Even if a movie is shit (as most of the F&F movies have been) a slick, well constructed marketing campaign can get people in the seats… this failed to get people in the seats to begin with and then the movie itself failed to get people talking it up to their friends.

    Should have been John Carter of Mars… or maybe Carter of Mars… or A Princess of Mars… or just fucking Mars. Honestly, anything would have been better than John Carter. Mark my words, this will be a case study used in Business and Marketing programs for years.

  • Steve Kasan

    @Colin, or even just Barsoom as the title. I was having this coversation with a friend the other day and we came to the conclusion that Barsoom sounded much much better.

    A Princess of Mars, yet the appropriate title, is more suited for a book than a major picture.

  • patrik

    The marketing was horrible and I do think it hurt not having any “stars”. It’s a shame, good movie and I would much rather have a sequel to this than most of the other sequels we get.

  • patrik

    For the title.. What about “John Carter and A Princess of Mars”? Too much? I think it might have had a better pull with females.. John Carter of Mars was a pretty good title though.

  • Greg

    Not having Mars in the title was a huge mistake. All of those young kids that love the Star Wars prequels would have associated this movie with it. Planets! Aliens! Loveable Spacedogs! It should have worked. Whomever decided that taking Mars out of the title was the right move is a terrible person.

  • Steve

    When the first posters were coming out, I thought John Carter of Mars was a pretty dumb title. John Carter is even worse. I agree with other Steve, Barsoom would be a better title. And no stars? Willem Dafoe is in it, people! I hope the marketing team was fired for this one.

  • Niklas

    I haven’t seen the movie but the trailers and ads made it seem boring. When I saw that it got some positive buzz I asked some friends if they wanted to go check it out and nobody was interested.

  • rjdelight

    So I guess Andrew Stanton’s live-action directing career is effectively over.

  • Man, this was an AWESOME movie! I was blown away. Top of the list for best picture. I want a sequel. How the hell did Disney do such a bad job marketing this?!? No one cares about it being before Avatar and all that. Play up the love story. I’m going out to read the books.

  • we all know what it should have been called:

    Barsoom: Based on the Novel A Princess of Mars by Burroughs

    hahahahahaha, ech!

  • Jason_Miami

    You can’t just blame the marketing. When I saw Sherlock Holmes 2 they showed a trailer and it was awful, yes. It was a generic movie trailer with explosions and almost nothing but terrible one-liners spoken by a main character in a gruff voice. Horrible.

    But the fact is that the audience isn’t responding to the movie. The movie itself didn’t connect with audiences. You can blame the marketing if asses aren’t in the seats for the first weekend. But, if you have the kind of drop they had in the second week that means it was probably bad word of mouth. In the internet age, word travels fast. Tron: Legacy didn’t do blockbuster numbers for them but it had good critic response and word of mouth so it stuck around and made money. And any ratings on a movie website are kind of irrelevant in the terms of the audience this movie was trying to catch. The internet loved Scott Pilgrim but that didn’t translate to box office gold.

    You can’t blame the marketing for the quality of the actual movie. A $30 million opening is respectable considering it’s not a sequel, not a household name, and doesn’t have marketable stars (although it does have awesome actors like Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong, Dominic West, and Bryan Cranston.) But it’s not a good opening for a movie of this budget and there’s no way they could have made all that money back in one week. Plus, like the article says, Hunger Games is coming out and that will blow attention away from every other movie so it was just bad timing on Disney’s part (maybe that is part of blaming the marketing team.)

    Anyway, it’s doing well internationally so Disney may be over-blowing their losses a bit for some kind of scheme; something studios do a lot in order to not pay the people involved in the making of the movie as much.

    Somehow the Transformers movies can do it but it wasn’t the fate of John Carter. Maybe next time Disney will take a closer look at the actual movie instead of just throwing $250 million at it and thinking it will hit. Spending that much money on a movie that isn’t a franchise sequel is insane and they’ll learn a lesson. But really, in the grand scheme, that kind of money isn’t much of a dent at all in the juggernaut that is the Disney movie machine.

  • patrik

    “Sherlock Holmes 2″. That’s your answer right there. They already promoted the first one well enough and it did well. So people are gonna go to the sequel as well. Also that movie has Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law.

    The audience isn’t responding to the movie because they haven’t watched it. Most people who have seen it seems to like it. At least that’s what I get. Most movies drop about 50% of the box office from the opening week so I think that point is moot and again, I don’t think John Carter has bad word of mouth, it’s just that not a lot of people have bothered to go see it and the ones that have are people like us who love movies and the ones we would spread the word to are other people like us who would see it anyway.

    As for the quality of the movie, it’s good imo.

  • patrik

    Oh I see now you didn’t mean the trailer for Sherlock Holmes 2 =). The rest of my points still stand though.

  • Owozifa

    Lots of movies fail that don’t really deserve it. I wasn’t the biggest John Carter fan, but I certainly found it better than a lot of its similar ilk.

    What I’m most concerned about is I’ve read in multiple places that people are saying that anything to do with Mars is box office poison, which I don’t really get.

  • Nelson

    CG, CG, CG, that is my explanation. In some cases that stuff can be like solid gold, but you have to use it very sparingly, or you have to use it just right, in the exact scenes where it is needed, and in the exact amount that the audience is willing to tolerate.

    I think that’s probably one of the biggest complaints that I hear in reference to science fiction movies or really any of the more modern movies that have been released that choose to use CG.

    They had a very prominent CG character in “The Phantom Menace” and I believe a huge amount of people hated the character and despised the movie a whole lot more, due to the character. In the “Lord of the Rings” movies there was a CG character, “Gollum”, and the audience tolerated, liked, and probably even appreciated the character’s role in the film, because he was used well and shown in a realistic way. He was part of the movies but he wasn’t the ENTIRE movie.

    They chose to put all of these CG characters in “John Carter” because that’s what the story calls for, BUT, it’s a lesson where we learn that just because you CAN do something and have the ability to do it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.

    Why did this work so well for “Avatar” and not for “John Carter”, I have no idea. To this day I still haven’t seen “Avatar” and I have no desire to, and it’s probably for the same reasons that a lot of people have chosen not to see “John Carter”.