JOHN CARTER: What If It Isn’t A Flop?

Heidi MacDonald over at The Beat has a fairly good rundown of rampant, joyous, near-orgasmic display of schadenfreude the film media is exhibiting over John Carter this morning. They are attacking the film like a bunch of vultures, calling it a “flop,” a “bomb,” and  even, GASP, an “Ishtar on Mars.”  She pulls quotes from Nikki Finke at Deadline, Brooks Barnes at the New York TimesAmy Kaufman at the Los Angeles Times, and others who are all doing a happy dance after being proven right in predicting that the Andrew Stanton helmed-flick would be a massive flop at the box office.

But, one problem, what if John Carter turns out not to be a flop? Granted, it ONLY made $30.6 million domestically and ONLY opened in second place this past weekend, behind The Lorax, a movie that opened the week before. But this doesn’t mean that the film will not make its $250 million budget back.

What? I’m talking crazy? How can I say that John Carter might be a success? Every other film journalist is saying the film is a failure, so that must obviously be the case, right?

Not necessarily. Allow me to present a comparison to argue my case. Let me compare John Carter with another live action film directed by a Pixar-alum, Brad Bird’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

Now, John Carter has some advantages of MI:GP. It opened in 51 foreign markets to the latter’s 42 markets and opened in about 300 more theaters domestically as well. And MI:GP opened over the crowded Christmas holiday weekend, with competition from films such as The Adventures of Tintin, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and War Horse.

However, MI:GP has more advantages than that over John Carter. It was a highly anticipated sequel to a long standing franchise. It starred one of the biggest international stars of all time, Tom Cruise, leading an international cast. And the foreign markets it did open in included Moscow, Dubai, and Mumbai, all of which were used as shooting locations in the film. MI:GP was a veritable Dagwood sandwich of built-in audience, something that John Carter never had.

Taking that into consideration, MI:GP‘s opening weekend, both here and abroad, should swamp John Carter‘s right?  Wrong. Based on Friday to Sunday weekend grosses, they were about even.

MI:GP grossed $29,556,629 from December 23 to 25th, less than JC‘s $30,603,000 this Friday to Sunday. Overseas during its opening weekend, MI:GP grossed $69.5 Million compared to JC‘s $70.6 Million. Even with the discrepancies in theater counts and foreign markets, it’s pretty safe to say that the two films are just about even. But nobody ever took joy in deeming MI:GP a flop or a failure. No one wrote that film off as another Ishtar.

And the kicker? MI:GP‘s gross-to-date is a $688,784,000 combined foreign and domestic. if JC keeps on the same pace, that will mean it more than doubled the film’s $250 million budget. That, my friends, will make it a hit. Maybe not as big a hit in a cost-to-return ratio as the $145 million budgeted MI:GP, but a hit nonetheless.

But the know-it-all’s in the press really don’t want that to happen. I believe that’s why they were so in a rush to declare the film dead on arrival after a weekend where it made 40% of its budget back. Because if they declare the film a flop, people who read their columns and blogs will believe them, figure “why bother?’ and ignore the film. Then their premature damnation will become the truth.

I don’t really know if that will work this time, because the film has been getting extraordinarily good word of mouth from people who have seen it. It garnered a B+ Cinemascore rating from theatergoers. People who believed the negative, pre-release hype are surprised by how good the film was, and people who skipped the film because of the bad press are being swayed to see it. The film doesn’t really have that far to go to make a profit. I believe this might be a case of the media’s report of the film’s demise to be greatly exaggerated.

About William Gatevackes 1952 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.
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