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.
Others are saying "not so fast" since the film took in an additional $70 million internationally, giving it a total worldwide box office take of around $100 million, and how word of mouth by those who saw the movie might give it legs in the long run.
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.