For some people there is glee when a movie fails, but I’m reminded of something Justin Bartha said to me about Gigli. People work just as hard on movies that bomb as movies that succeed, and almost everyone is just doing their jobs. And no one ever sets out to make a bad movie. The makers of John Carter went in with good faith, and thought they were making the Star Wars for the next generation. Unfortunately, they’re going to need a miracle for the film to work. And it seems a little too late for that.
Before we get into John Carter, let’s talk for a second about A Thousand Words. The Eddie Murphy film started shooting in May of 2008, and so Paramount has been sitting on it for years now. It will not open in the top five. It may not open in the top ten. It’s a complete disaster. It was bumped around Paramount’s schedule for a while, and likely is only going theatrical because of contractual obligation. And if I didn’t mention it, most people wouldn’t even know it’s coming out to die.
Then there’s John Carter. Disney has suggested that they’ve spent at least $250 million on the picture. There are rumors that the film may have cost much more, and there were at least two rounds of reshoots and possibly more. None of these are bad things. There is also word that because the project was greenlit by the last administration (let’s call them the Carter administration) that the current administration is okay with the film bombing. Tracking never picked up with the picture, and the marketing campaign has been disastrous. They haven’t been able to find images that sell the film, and the first trailer was terrible. The advertising approach was muted in a way that didn’t sell fun or scale. Perhaps the film was retooled in reshoots to make it livelier.
The only question is if the marketing fumble was because they couldn’t figure out how to sell it, or if they didn’t believe in it. But we’re at a point where the math against the film is too strong for it to have any chance domestically. The Lorax just opened to $70 Million, so Carter‘s opening up against a strong picture, next week’s 21 Jump Street is already tracking well and it’s a crowd pleaser, and then two weeks after Carter opens, The Hunger Games is looking to have a possible $100 Million weekend. Films can succeed without ever hitting the number one spot, and can play while other films also do well at the box office, but there are no films that go up in the second weekend without some sort of holiday behind them or an expansion run. Opening weekends tell the tale, and then the film starts to slip. By two weeks, it’s going to be out of the best auditoriums in the theater, and may start losing second or third prints. By three weeks that gets even worse, and by July or August the film should be on DVD and Blu-ray.
But even if the film opened in the $50 Million range. Looking at the numbers, the highest it parallel release would have done $25o (Despicable Me), while Watchmen opened to $55 Million and grossed $107 Million. Of course the film could play big internationally, and such raises the point that movies don’t have to be successful in America to make money any more. It seems like Wrath of the Titans came about because of the international numbers on Clash of the Titans, and a Tintin sequel seems to be going forward even though the movie made only a blip domestically. But few films of this scale are ever that lopsided. So John Carter will probably lose money. The question then becomes: how many films that cost around $300 Million can fail before the paradigm changes?
Anyway, let’s predict:
- The Lorax – $42 Million
- John Carter – $29.5 Million
- Project X – $8.9 Million
- Silent House – $8.5 Million
- Act of Valor – $6.5 Million
I guess Carter could go higher, but at this point that seems unlikely. Oh well. Maybe Silent House cracks ten million this weekend, but word isn’t good.
What are you going to watch this weekend?