'John Carter' Week, part 5: Will people go see it?
Published: March 9, 2012 10:06AM
Updated: March 9, 2012 10:08AM
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John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) and Tal Hajus (Thomas Haden Church) on the set of the movie "John Carter."

This Friday, the Disney sci-fi blockbuster "John Carter" -- the most expensive movie ever filmed extensively in Utah -- opens in theaters around the country. All this week, The Cricket will bring you tidbits from the cast and filmmakers who made "John Carter."

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So now the question for "John Carter" is this: Will people go?

The early tracking surveys don't look promising. According to The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, "John Carter" is poised to make between $25 million and $30 million this weekend.

That's a low number for a movie whose budget is officially set at $175 million -- but is rumored to have grown to $250 million.

"John Carter" may not even win the weekend, if last week's box-office champ, "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," maintains a healthy percentage of its audience.

The critical response has been middling. The aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes shows a 48-percent positive response from critics, while Metacritic (which samples the elite critics) gives it a score of 52 out of 100.

Speaking to reporters last month at a press event outside Phoenix, producer Jim Morris acknowledged that Disney is facing a marketing challenge with "John Carter."

"Without 'Mars' in the title, it sounds so frickin' generic," he said.

"John Carter of Mars" was the movie's working title when it was being filmed in 2010, on a London soundstage and on location in southern Utah. But, Morris said, Disney thought the word "Mars" in the title made the movie seem too familiar. (Reportedly, Disney was also spooked when their animated "Mars Needs Moms" tanked last year.)

From a storytelling standpoint, Morris said, "It was credible to begin as 'John Carter,' and then he becomes 'John Carter of Mars.'"

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For a view from the set of "John Carter," and a look at the Utah connection, read The Cricket's article from Sunday's Tribune. Also, read this story about how the film moved from the page to the screen.