You Win Some, You Lose Some


Well, it is not a secret that Hunger Games is a hit with moviegoers. It made over $152 million it’s opening weekend, which made it the best March movie opening ever. This film is based on books by Suzanne Collins where, in the future, young people are forced by the government to fight each other to the death. Of course, this is not the first time a book or book series got the movie treatment. Just look at the recent John Carter of Mars, those books are classics of the science fiction genre. Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the man who brought us Tarzan, it deals with the adventures of the title character, a prospector and U.S. Civil War veteran who ends up on the planet Mars in the 21st century. Yet, John Carter didn’t do nearly as well its opening weekend. How much money did it make? Only $30 million.  By the way, John Carter of Mars cost $250 million to make, whereas Hunger Games only cost $78 million to make.

What gives? John Carter has been around for almost a hundred years, it was written by the same person who gave us Tarzan (how many screen adaptations did he get) and has a big fan base. In addition to all of that, the film version was directed by Andrew Stanton, the guy who directed WALL*E and Finding Nemo, it had the good special effects and had the resources of Disney studios. Why didn’t it do as well as Hunger Games? Here are my thoughts.

John Carter Isn’t A Harbinger of Things To Come
While books are considered classics in the science fiction genre, they aren’t in the same league as books by Jules Verne. Verne was an engineer, so his stories had some grounding in science. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a pencil sharpener salesman, among other things and he achieved his greatest success by writing the John Carter stories. The appeal of Burroughs’ John Carter stories has more to do with characterization, (John Carter is noble, the Tharks are savages, etc.) than with any visions or predictions of the future.

The Fan Base Wasn’t Tapped Into
Many of the movie posters for John Carter didn’t feature the title character or make mention that that this film was based on the Burroughs’ books. The one that does, doesn’t show him in great detail. It looks like this:

I have a passing familiarity with the books because my brother read both the Marvel comic book version and the actual books. If you haven’t read the books or know someone that did, looking at a poster like this would make you scratch your head. There was no mention that this was based on the books by Burroughs. The blurb on the poster doesn’t draw the moviegoer in. (FYI: The blurb says, “Lost in our world. Found in another.”) Not even a mention that the person who brought us WALL*E and Finding Nemo was directing this film. Marketing campaign seemed to be “If you film it, they will come.” Well, they filmed it and only $30 million’s worth came.

Despite The Best of Intentions, It Just Didn’t Do Well
Sometimes, no matter how many pluses a movie has, and this film had plenty, it just doesn’t do well. Classics like Citizen Kane and It’s A Wonderful Life bombed when they were first released and you can’t get better plusses than Orson Wells and Jimmy Stewart. Not to mention, the John Carter books are a hundred years old, so they didn’t have the marketing machine behind them that a more recent book, like Hunger Games or Twilight has.

So, if something in your life doesn’t work out, no matter how much thought or effort you put into it, don’t feel too bad. At least you didn’t lose $165 million on your endeavor, which is what Disney stands to lose on John Carter.

Sources:
http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?yr=2012&wknd=12&p=.htm

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?yr=2012&wknd=10&p=.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/movies/john-carter-based-on-princess-of-mars.html

http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=371986

http://www.movieweb.com/news/second-john-carter-poster

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2 Responses to “You Win Some, You Lose Some”

  1. Alex Says:

    Think again, and check your sources – worldwide John Carter has already made its cost of filming back.

    Bizarre marketing may have sunk it in the USA, but the film has been enjoyed enough worldwide. One might contemplate how well it would have done if the supposed marketing budget had been spent on , y’know, marketing (including books/toys/posters/licensing).

    • Ilena Di Toro Says:

      Alex, thanks for your comments. My sources for this blog entry included an article from the Associated Press about John Carter, as well as info from Box Office Mojo.Com that lists U.S. box office numbers. (My sources are listed at the end of each blog entry.) I couldn’t find anything that stated John Carter turned a profit overseas, though I wouldn’t be surprised. Hollywood blockbusters almost always seem to do well overseas. I guess you could say the Hollywood brand sells, even if the U.S. isn’t highly regarded throughout the world. Thanks for reading my blog and be sure to come again. New entries to my blog come out every Thursday. You can also follow me on Facebook (Just Movie Posters.Com) and Twitter (JMPosters). P.S. You are absolutely right about how the marketing budget should have been used on actual marketing.

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