Nick Leshi

Nick Leshi
Bronx, New York, United States of America
December 13
Writer, actor, media professional, fan of entertainment, pop culture, and speculative fiction. Contact for more info.


Nick Leshi's Links

MARCH 13, 2012 3:44PM

Definition of a Movie Flop

Rate: 4 Flag
Disney's blockbuster-wannabe John Carter, which allegedly cost a quarter billion dollars to make (not counting all the marketing expenses), has quickly become the poster child for Hollywood bombs, even though it is less than a week old. It underperformed at the weekend domestic box-office, earning only $30,180,188, coming in second to The Lorax, the animated adaptation of the Dr. Seuss tale, which has already generated $123,524,850 in ticket sales. Even though, counting international revenue, John Carter has made over one hundred million dollars, pundits think it will have a tough time just breaking even. For what was supposed to be a lucrative start to a promising science fiction and fantasy franchise, the mediocre reality seems to be a tough pill to swallow.

Low budget movies that become hits are easier to recognize as they emerge out of the blue and become must-see phenomena. Think of The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity.  Even bigger budget films can reach the stratosphere of undeniable success -- the Lord of the Rings trilogy cost over $100,000,000 to produce but earned over four times that in profit.

How do we measure something like John Carter with all its planned merchandising tie-ins and post-theatrical release ancillary sales?  The truth is that breaking even isn't good enough. 

John Carter had sparked doubt even before its premiere as prognosticators predicted its feeble performance.  Or did such doomsday predictions prematurely and unjustly cripple its chances?  Some troubled productions overcame such early negativity to prove the naysayers wrong, defying the odds to win the box-office crown. Titanic is the greatest example.

There are many theories about the reasons for John Carter's failure, everything from its generic title to the fact that its Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom source material was archaic. A good summary of some of those explanations is provided in an excellent article on

Will John Carter join the ranks of other notorious duds (the cinematic kind, not the Milk Duds candy variety)? I will hopefully see it and review it shortly, but I don't think it will sink to the depths of Heaven's Gate, Waterworld, or Howard the Duck, but it has a long hill to climb in order to disprove the doubters.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
I have friends who saw John Carter and liked it, though they admit it's a flawed movie.
John Carter is maybe one of the best SF/fantasy films I've seen since the first LOTR movie. I liked last year's "Captain America" a lot and even have a soft spot in my heart for "Thor," but JC is one of the first movies where I found myself wanting to see it a 2nd time.

My prediction for "John Carter" is for it to build an audience through cable, DVDs and downloads over the long haul, with people realizing how good it is 10 or even 20 years down the road. "Blade Runner" and "Tron" were both box office and critical disappointments when they came out. Both are considered classics now, with "Tron" getting a sequel in 2010 (something that would've been laughable in 1983) and "Blade Runner" having one in the planning stages. Fortunately for Disney and all involved with "John Carter," Taylor Kitsch would be about the same age that Brad Pitt or George Clooney are now if there is demand for a sequel in 20 years. 51 years old isn't too old to play the Warlord of Mars.
The commercials are terrible. Marketing Dept. gets an F. A title named "John Carter" doesn't sound like anything to do with monsters and gladiators. Half the people I know think it's the kid from Terminator (yes, that's John Conner but it's close enough) and wonder why he is on Mars. Or wherever it is. Effects looks cheesy on the tv which means they are a double-double of cheese in the theater. Again, marketing grade F.
John Carter seems to have all the makings of a case study in how not to do it. I wonder if there's still not some vestiges of Disney's ability to make a movie like this and not be "Bambi".
Or, how many people are like me and think "ER" and Noah Wiley when we see the name John Carter?
@Keri H, I don't disagree with you about the marketing. Most people see a movie named John Carter and think it might be about a football coach or something. Disney made no effort to reintroduce this character or the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs to the public. The book it was based on was called "Princess of Mars." I don't know why on Barsoom Disney, a company known for its princesses, didn't use that title or even "Warlord of Mars," which was the subtitle of the comic book version in the 1970s. Any of those titles would have told the audience more about what they were getting. Sadly, JC is one of the best of these types of films to come out in a while, it's just that the Mouse didn't know what to do with it.
I hope to see it this week and post my review. I have to agree that the title was ridiculously bland, but I think Disney wanted to "brand" the character. I agree it would have been better if it was something as simple as "John Carter on Mars." The original "Princess of Mars" might have suffered from Disney's wacky fear of reaching the right demographics which made them retitle Rapunzel as "Tangled."
Nick, I'm definitely curious to read what you think of it, and I hope I haven't built it up too much.
Disney did put out the publications of three volumes of John Carter Of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, all eleven novels. I would agree about the title. Should have called it "John Carter Of Mars" instead of just John Carter. I don't see anything cheesy about the cgi special effects there. I plan on seeing that movie, now that I was halfway thru "Princess Of Mars".