Monday, March 12, 2012

"John Carter" Disappoints and Disney's "Paladin"

Walt Disney Pictures' first big release for the year, John Carter, pulled in a disappointing $30.1 million over the weekend. For a film that apparently cost $250 million to produce (and I imagine $100 million more went into marketing the film), this isn't very good. Overseas, it has taken in $70 million. It's not a very good start, but at least the worldwide total is past $100 million. Unfortunately, with a weak $30 million opening, John Carter won't go very far at the domestic box office. The worldwide box office is a whole other story.

John Carter was backed by what was quite possibly one of the worst marketing campaigns in the history of the Mouse House. A campaign that failed to point out early on that the film was based on a series of highly influential novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The trailers also failed to mention that the film was directed by Andrew Stanton. Regardless of the film's quality (I personally felt that it was a letdown), this still could've been a big success for Disney. If garbage like most blow-'em-up summer blockbusters can make over $50 million on their opening weekends, so could this. Misguided marketing is responsible for this, and the word of mouth most likely won't save it now.

It was possible from the very beginning that this sci-fi epic was going to be a disappointment, or something audiences wouldn't like. Still, Disney could've promoted the hell out of this film so it would at least score a decent-sized opening weekend gross. If it had taken in $50 million domestically, it could've had a 2.5x multiplier and take in over $120 million stateside. Now it looks like this will gross less than $90 million. A huge opportunity was lost, and Disney will probably torpedo any possible sequel. Worldwide grosses won't save it. The opening weekend gross is very bad to say the least, even a little bit more than what Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time grossed on its opening weekend without 3D and IMAX 3D back in May 2010.

At best, the film will probably just be an underperformer. With a $70 million international opening, things are looking up for Stanton's dream project. It may be like Persia all over again, a domestic underperformer but a sizable success overseas. Let's not forget the second weekend, as nothing opening against it is a threat. If it doesn't drop like a rock, then it will prove if the word of mouth is good or not. We can only tell what the man on Mars' domestic box office fate will be next weekend, but worldwide, it should be safe.

On a lighter note (especially for animation!), Dr. Seuss' The Lorax takes the #1 spot again with $38 million. This is on track to clear $200 million, the first animated film at the domestic box office to make that much since Tangled. Animation is back on track, even though I personally felt that The Lorax wasn't a great film by any means. Still, it's nice to see an animated film do well.

What's really bizarre is that Disney seems unaffected by John Carter's disappointing opening. They just announced that an original science fiction epic is in the works, one that isn't based on any existing source material. The name of the project? Paladin.

Now that certainly sounds like something interesting. There are no details on the plot right now, but it will be written by Max Borenstein. Borenstein wrote and directed a film called Swordswallowers and Thin Men, which was released in 2003. He is currently writing the screenplay for a Legendary Pictures' fantasy film called The Seventh Son. An original sci-fi epic from Disney? Well here's hoping this isn't another John Carter, but something about it excites me. What is that you might ask? The title. Paladin is an interesting title, unlike John Carter. I feared that if John Carter tanked, ambitious projects like this would be torpedoed. I guess I was wrong... Disney seems serious about this project, so we'll see what happens.

It'll be interesting to see how the next big Disney live action projects will perform: Oz: The Great and Powerful, The Lone Ranger, Jon Favreau's Magic Kingdom project, the Matterhorn project, the next attempt at making a film based on The Haunted Mansion... Will Paladin actually make it into pre-production? Who knows, but it can happen.

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