It's no secret that Disney's John Carter has a massive budget, so massive that it's going to need to earn upwards of $700 million at the box office just to earn the right to a sequel. But according to new tracking on the flick, it might not even come close. Could the Martian adventure be this year's biggest flop?
With the onslaught of trailers, posters and images getting heavier just three weeks out from the film's March 9 release, Disney is getting feelers out to see just how aware prospective moviegoers are of the flick, and how many of them are interested in seeing it. Disney won't share their tracking numbers, of course, but Deadline's Nikki Finke is hearing from rival studios that the situation looks pretty grim.
"'Not good. 2 unaided, 53 aware, 27 definitely interested, 3 first choice,' a senior exec at a rival studio emails me," Finke wrote Thursday. "Another writes me, 'It just came out. Women of all ages have flat out rejected the film. The tracking for John Carter is shocking for a film that cost over $250 million. This could be the biggest writeoff of all time.' I'm hearing figures in the neighborhood of $100 million. And the studio isn't even trying to spin reports of the 3D pic's bloated budget any more."
But it's not like Disney wasn't aware of this before. According to an executive close to current Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross, it wasn't their movie to begin with. The project began under previous studio head Dick Cook (who left in 2009), and now it's their job to try and make it worthwhile.
"It's the last leftover from the previous regime of Dick Cook," the exec said. "We're not running away from the movie. Our job is to sell it."
Rich Ross and his regime have been able to sell previous Cook leftovers, too, like Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, but this flick isn't carrying Johnny Depp's name. Plus, the hope of word-of-mouth buzz pushing the flick to sustained moneymaking is a little dimmed by the fact that two weeks after it opens, The Hunger Games will hit theaters and steal most of whatever thunder it has.
Still, Disney isn't giving up. This Sunday they're amping up their John Carter media push even higher, and by release day you won't be able to turn on a TV without seeing a trailer for the flick. It might not be enough for the film to earn its keep, but John Carter won't go down without a fight.