Monday, 12 March 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #864: To Bomb Or Not To Bomb?

This weekend saw the coming of much confusion, especially over the Disney's sci-fi epic John Carter.  The film opened in second place domestically, behind kiddie marketed toy sales pitch film The Lorax with around $30 million.  Now this has led to some people to brand the film a massive bomb, a narrative they've been polishing since the film was green-lit. 

So, is it a failure or isn't it?

Well, yes, no, maybe, and nobody outside of the Disney accounting office will ever know.

YES in the fact that the film cost over $250 million to make, probably at least $100 million to market, which was an extremely lackluster job for the once unstoppable Disney selling machine. By some systems of measurement the movie needed to break box office records and break them fast in order to just break even.

NO can be said if the film develops legs, and has a long healthy run at the box office.  The opening weekend was slightly better than the wide opening of Tom Cruise's comeback vehicle Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which is still in theaters and has so far grossed almost $700 million worldwide.  If John Carter manages to pull this off, it could become a moneymaker in the long run.

MAYBE because international box office isn't all it's cracked up to be.  Once the theater owners take their share off the ticket price, they send the rest to the distributor, that's called the "rental." Now unless Disney can handle distribution in every foreign territory by itself, they need local partners, and they will take their cut.  So by the time the money comes back, it can be whittled down quite a bit.  However the amount that constitutes the "house nut" and the "rental" is different in almost every territory, so you need an army of accountants to keep everything straight.

And speaking of an army of accountants....

There is a really good chance that no one outside of the Disney upper echelons will ever know if the movie made money or not.  It will all depend on what narrative the company wants to put forward.

Remember Universal Pictures still claims that Back To The Future, one of the biggest selling movies of all time, not only lost money, but is still losing money for the company.  Not only that, they can show all sorts of accounting related baffle-gab to allegedly prove it.

That way they can still shill the film and its sequels, rake in what is essentially free money, while avoiding paying a dime in profit shares to the people who made it.

If Disney can get away with telling everyone that John Carter as a bomb, then they will. They can make more money off it that way.


  1. JC wil not have BO legs for one reason. HUNGER GAMES that film has been on the cover of every magazine and website for several months now.

    you cannot walk through a supermarket with out seeing a cover mentioning tha tfilm.

  2. Here's a question inspired by a recent article about the fall of Bob Weinstein's Dimension Films. Can a man pushing 60 still sell movies to pretty much solely bored young adults? I don't think so, but I don't know how old the marketers for John Carter and The Hunger Games are. It could explain why Harvey has been getting more "success" selling solely to aging Oscar voters.,0,1841777.story

  3. So Hollywood is basically run by Max Bialystock and Leopold Bloom?

  4. "Spring time for Hitler, and Germany" bump-da-bump-bump, "Winter for Poland and France"

    I can't see how you can go wrong with ERB Barsoom stories. Beautiful women dressed only in jewels, manly men who live for honor and glory. Sky pirates and four armed giants set against an ancient world. Of course Disney found a way.

    The visuals are all wrong. First, Whelan is the best artist for the covers and should have been followed closely like they did with the 'Lord of the Rings' and Howe. Second, why run from the 'Warlord of Mars' or 'Princess of Mars' or whatever. 'Warlord of Mars' sounds badass. John Carter sounds like a boring cousin of Jimmy and Billy. Third, the CGI looked corny on the previews I saw.

    Act of Valor, now that was an action movie and worth every penny even if you count buying my wife dinner first.

    Rainforest Giant.

  5. Gary- If it stays at a healthy #2 for a very, very, very, long time, it could break even.

    ILDC- I'll answer that in my next posting.

    Kit- Max Bialystock & Leopold Bloom have way more flair than most of today's Hollywood executives, but the business plan's more or less the same.

    Rainforest Giant- I don't think Disney and the MPAA would have gone for a 99% naked leading lady. While critics have been cold to it, I've been seeing a lot of positive buzz in social media from people who saw it.

    As for the title, yeah either Princess of Mars, or Warlord of Mars would have been better, but Disney's marketing department probably thought calling it "Princess" would have made Deja Thoris look like the main character, and that "Warlord" sounded too violent for a Disney movie.

  6. HG looks like it will derail everything in the BO when it comes out.