The biggest movie ever filmed in Utah turned into one of the year’s biggest busts at the box office. “John Carter,” Disney’s $250 million epic rendition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian adventure, opened in March to bad buzz and middling reviews. It made just over $73 million during its theatrical run, according to the website Box Office Mojo. Disney fired executives over the financial debacle, but apparently didn’t lose faith in Utah as a location — it filmed part of its 2013 blockbuster “The Lone Ranger” around Moab.
Utah filmmakers are prolific • Richard Dutcher pushed his gritty 2008 drama “Falling” for a full-throttle release in April. Director Ryan Little returned with the World War II drama “Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed.” Filmmaker Kieth Merrill and producer Ken Kragen made the holiday film “12 Dogs of Christmas: The Great Puppy Rescue,” while newcomer Bryce Clark highlighted St. George in his debut “Ben Banks” and Bryan Lefler released the comedy “Unicorn City.” Director John Lyde had a two-fer on DVD at the end of the year: the family drama “Christmas Oranges” and the terrorism horror movie “Osombie.”
The annual Park City invasion • The annual return of Hollywood types for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival produced major publicity for films now being touted in the run-up to the Academy Awards – including the lyrical “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and the sexy and funny “The Sessions.”
Utah flavor at Sundance • Two films with major Utah connections are set to debut at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. “Austenland” is an offbeat romantic comedy directed by Salt Lake City filmmaker Jerusha Hess (who co-wrote “Napoleon Dynamite”) and based on South Jordan author Shannon Hale’s book. Then there’s “The Crash Reel,” a documentary about snowboarder Kevin Pearce, whose career was cut short after a horrific accident on the Park City Mountain Resort’s halfpipe, made by Oscar nominee Lucy Walker.
Megaplex Theatres keep growing • The chain opened a 15-screen multiplex in West Valley City in November. It also acquired 11 theater facilities — in Mesquite, Nev., and the Utah cities of Logan, Cedar City and St. George — from the Salt Lake City-based Westates Theatres.
Salt Lake Film Society steps up • Operators of Salt Lake City’s Broadway Centre Cinemas and Tower Theatre took a big step forward in the local nonprofit world — attaining Tier I status in Salt Lake County’s Zoo, Arts & Parks tax program. The new ZAP designation means more financial support for the theaters as they face the challenge of updating the projection equipment for the digital age.