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Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Marketing of John Carter - Cost Meets Failure

Like showing up for a NASCAR race and waiting for the big wreck, Disney's John Carter made its debut yesterday and is promptly ready to take it on the chin.  It's not that John Carter is a bad movie, it isn't, it's just that it's a movie that isn't good enough to go out of your way to see.  As they say, wait to see it on video when you can get it out of your local Redbox vending machine for a buck.  That's not what Disney wants to here when the estimated cost to make the movie was $250,000,000.  Disney is going to lose and lose big on this one.  It's a write-off

Why?  Like I said, it's a movie that isn't movie that mass audiences want to pay their hard earned money to see right now.  The movie could of sucked big time and still be a financial success had it been marketed better but the trailers and TV advertising consistently made this movie seem ridiculously silly and a movie that had all the makings of a movie that seemed like a dozen other movies that have already been made.  Disney fired their head of movie marketing last year.  Maybe the new one gets the axe now.  Disney fired Dick Cook, the man who green-lighted John Carter when he was head of Walt Disney Studios a few years ago.  Maybe the new guy, Richard Ross, has to go now.  Disney had to take a huge write off on Mars Needs Moms last year, well over $100,000,000.  It dropped the quarterly profits of the entire company.  John Carter is poised to be even a bigger financial albatross. 

This Tuesday, March 13, in Kansas City, CEO Bob Iger will address his shareholders in their annual meeting.  He will have some explaining to do about his movie business.  He will have to explain where John Carter missed the boat right on the heels of Mars Needs Moms and just before that was the incredibly poor performance of Prince of Persia:Sands of Time and the Sorcerer's Apprentice.  Though not necessarily failures, expensive movies like of Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and TRON 2 Legacy, were not exactly box office smashes. Over the last few years it's been Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Toy Story 3 that have been big money makers for Disney. Just not good enough for a company steeped in movie tradition.  No wonder everyone is looking to The Avengers this summer.  Disney Studios is in need of a super-hero.

As for John Carter.  It's time to move on.  Lesson learned.  Make a movie people actually might want to see and show some creativity and imagination when it actually comes time to market it.


  1. A Depression era, pulp-fiction story like "John Carter of Mars" was the wrong property for a "family-friendly" studio like Disney to begin with, especially at a time when audiences have an increasing appetite for more "mature-themed" material. Not that there isn't a market for Disney's style & brand of entertainment, but whether that segment is large enough for the company to continue to be profitable is another story.

    1. I gotta say I like this comment and really hadn't thought of it that way. Over the last several years, Disney's attempts to get into the big budget action adventure market has not gone well outside of a drunken pirate. Maybe "Disney" should just stay out film genre and focus on what they do best, family films. Disney's acquisition of Marvel Studios does change that a bit because this summer's The Avengers is almost guaranteed to be a blockbuster but I believe Marvel's production arrangement with Disney will be similar to that of Pixar - same parent company but producing films independently.

      Disney had a small amount of success with The Muppets released last November, a movie that was made on a fairly small budget by modern standards. That's probably the area they should stay in.

      A note about the marketing of John Carter. Saw a preview of the new film Wrath of the Titans over the weekend. If you put that side by side with a John Carter trailer, on the surface of it, kind of feels like its the same movie. Not good.