'John Carter' officially a failure; Disney claims $200 million loss
Published: March 20, 2012 10:14AM
Updated: March 20, 2012 10:14AM
image
Tar Tarkas (Willem Dafoe), left, and John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) film a scene for "John Carter."

It's official now: "John Carter" has been a financial bust for the Walt Disney Company.

The studio announced Monday that it would take a $200 million loss on the film, which cost an estimated $250 million to make and plenty more to market, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

The sci-fi spectacular -- much of which was shot on location in southern Utah, the most expensive movie to film extensively in the Beehive State -- has taken a cumulative box-office tally of $53,227,248 in its first 10 days of release, according to Box Office Mojo. The site reports that it's unlikely "John Carter" will even reach $100 million in its full theatrical run.

The failure of "John Carter" reveals a truism about big-budget movies these days: A movie's quality scarcely matters if the marketing isn't done right.

Any casual observer would grade the marketing of "John Carter" as poor. The first teaser trailer, as New York magazine reported, was a misfire from which the movie never recovered. And the TV ads, from the first Super Bowl spot through the last two months of commercials, never gave a clear idea what the movie was or for whom it was made.

The critical response didn't help, with as many critics disliking it as liking it. Audiences seemed to respond better, giving positive CinemaScore grades -- but it was too little, too late.

Now comes the fallout, and the interesting thing here is that few of the principals are likely to take a hit for the movie's failure.

Rich Ross, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, wasn't in that job when "John Carter" was greenlit, so he's in no danger. The studio's stock is still rated as a "buy" by analysts, writes The Hollywood Reporter, because Disney's media networks and theme parks are still a good investment.

Director Andrew Stanton can always go back to the safe confines of Pixar Animation Studios, where he scored hits with "Finding Nemo" and "Wall-E." Meanwhile, star Taylor Kitsch is already headed to his next blockbuster, "Battleship" (opening in May), and that movie's director Peter Berg vouches for him (again, to The Hollywood Reporter), saying "he's got the right stuff."

Even the state of Utah, which would have loved to take in the production spending that "John Carter" sequels would have brought, will live to film another day. The Utah Film Commission is already at work on the next Disney blockbuster, "The Lone Ranger" (starring Armie Hammer as the masked man and Johnny Depp as Tonto), which will film this summer around Moab.