Why Disney are looking at a $200m hit on John Carter

With Disney’s $250m-budgeted space fantasy John Carter rapidly slipping down the charts – having banked a global haul of just $184m to date – the studio have released a statement via Deadline confirming that they expect to make a major loss on the Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation:

In light of the theatrical performance of John Carter ($184 million global box office), we expect the film to generate an operating loss of approximately $200 million during our second fiscal quarter ending March 31. As a result, our current expectation is that the Studio segment will have an operating loss of between $80 and $120 million for the second quarter. As we look forward to the second half of the year, we are excited about the upcoming releases of The Avengers and Brave, which we believe have tremendous potential to drive value for the Studio and the rest of the company.

As the press release states, Disney are fortunate that they have two expected hits on their hands this year in Joss Whedon’s superhero ensemble The Avengers and the latest Pixar release, Brave. Of course, The Avengers is sure to rake in big bucks when it hits cinemas in April / May, but with Pixar returning to original material for the first time since 2009’s Up, there must be some doubts over to pull in anywhere close to the returns enjoyed by Toy Story 3 and Cars 2. Meanwhile the studio also have another hugely expensive live-action release planned for next year in The Lone Ranger, and will be hoping the inclusion of Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp helps the big-budget Western adventure to avoid the same fate as Taylor Kitsch’s Civil War veteran.

As for John Carter, you could point to several reasons for its failure, such as the lack of real star power in a cast headed up by X-Men Origins: Wolverine stars Kitsch and Lynn Collins, the decision to adopt a rather bland title (Disney must surely now be regretting dropping ‘of Mars’), the character’s unfamiliarity within the general moviegoing public, few opportunities for merchandising tie-ins and a marketing campaign that failed to capitalise both on its two-time Academy Award-winning director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E) and the fact that it was based on source material from Tarzan creator Burroughs. Furthermore, there’s also the issue of the film itself being rather dull – at least, in my opinion anyway.

Regardless of the reasons why John Carter has turned out to be a disaster for Disney, it now looks as if the door has been slammed firmly shut on further cinematic installments in the Barsoom series.

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