Hollywood is in a tizzy over the early tracking which just came online this morning for Walt Disney Studios‘ John Carter opening March 9th. “Not good. 2 unaided, 53 aware, 27 definitely interested, 3 first choice,” a senior exec at a rival studio emails me. Another writes me, “It just came out. Women of all ages have flat out rejected the film. The tracking for John Carter is shocking for a film that cost over $250 million. This could be the biggest writeoff of all time.” I’m hearing figures in the neighborhood of $100 million. And the studio isn’t even trying to spin reports of the 3D pic’s bloated budget any more.
Now, to be fair, this very soft tracking has been expected. The studios’ private reports have shown for some time very soft awareness and very little wannasee. So what’s Disney’s explanation? “It’s the last leftover from the previous regime of Dick Cook,” an executive who works for successor Rich Ross reminds me. “We’re not running away from the movie. Our job is to sell it.” Then again, Cook also left Ross Alice In Wonderland to sell, too, along with other hits and a few misses.
Disney is nervous, really nervous, but trying to hold out some hope. “We know that we have a long way to go. It’s still four weeks out, and the bulk of the media hasn’t hit yet. Our Super Bowl ad did what we intended it to do: have a pop of awareness. On Sunday we launch a full campaign with 90+% of all of our media ready to go.” Problem is, John Carter (formerly titled John Carter Of Mars) only has a two-week window before Lionsgate’s hotly anticipated The Hunger Games opens March 23rd.
Disney is still planning a gigantic worldwide day-and-date push for John Carter with all the frills no matter how dismal its prospects look. “After all the movie has Andrew Stanton of Finding Nemo and Wall-E,” an insider explains to me.