John Carter Not Nearly Big Enough For Disney
By John Hamann
March 11, 2012
Openers laid an egg at the box office this weekend, and while the one that John Carter laid may look like gold, nobody – and I mean nobody – is smiling at Disney Corp today. The other two openers, Eddie Murphy's 2008 comedy A Thousand Words and the one-shot horror flick Silent House, were complete roadkill, as Dr. Seuss' The Lorax ran over them driving his biofuel Mazda SUV. The story of the weekend, though, is John Carter, the $250 million mega-picture that only drew senior citizens this weekend.
Our number one film of the weekend is once again Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, as the huge opener dominates the top ten again. After opening to $70 million last weekend, obliterating box office tracking and estimates, The Lorax was still flying high this weekend, as it took in another $39.1 million from 3,746 venues. Considering the huge opening, The Lorax fell a not bad 44%. One has to remember that usually, the bigger they are the harder they fall. 300, 2007's sword and sandal epic, fell 54% after opening to $70.9 million. The Bourne Ultimatum fell 53% following a $69.3 million debut.
With blockbuster kid's flicks, like The Lorax, studios are more apt to release them strategically. Two Pixar films have opened to $70 million, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. The latter was released on November 5, 2004, and opened to $70.5 million. It fell only 29% in weekend two, as the Thursday before the weekend was Veteran's Day, and enabled the Friday to behave more like a Saturday at the box office. With Finding Nemo, Pixar had an excellent film, and was able to turn superlative word-of-mouth into a 34% drop in weekend two. The Lorax didn't have the critical praise that Nemo did, as it came in at 57% fresh versus Nemo's 98% fresh rating. Despite all that, The Lorax is on its way to being a film that's remembered. It crossed the $100 million mark on Saturday, its eighth day of release, and now has a running total of $122 million. It has zero direct competition next weekend, so I expect a good hold, before it faces off against The Hunger Games on March 23rd.
Finishing second this weekend is John Carter, the Disney release that didn't have much of a chance over this mid-March weekend. John Carter earned $30.8 million this weekend from 3,749 venues, far too little for a film that cost $250 million before getting into more money for prints and advertising. This one has been in the works for a very long time, as Disney took a shot at John Carter in the 1980s with John McTiernan (Die Hard, Predator) and Tom Cruise attached, then it shuffled to Paramount, where Sin City's Robert Rodriguez had a look, then Iron Man's Jon Favreau. Then in 2007, the rights reverted to Disney, and a long march to get to today took place. With Finding Nemo and WALL-E under his belt, Disney couldn't say no to director Andrew Stanton, and filming started in early 2010. Originally scheduled for summer 2012, Disney moved John Carter back to March, which is never a good indication of faith from a Hollywood studio on a quarter-billion picture. Reviews were embargoed until a week before release, and then seemingly released to the web on a case by case basis. As of last Monday, only positive reviews were listed at RottenTomatoes; today, critics are split right down the middle, with 83 for the film, and 83 against. "Top Critics" are not so split, with only 13 out of a possible 37 finding something to like (37%). If there is good news, its that John Carter does not appear to be a Battlefield Earth (2% fresh at RottenTomatoes – and one of the very few films I've walked out of).