9TH UPDATE, SUNDAY AM: Disney just released international figures from 55 territories, representing about 80% of the foreign market where John Carter was released this weekend. It opened to $70.6M. Combined with its domestic cume, the 3D sci-fi epic has now made $101.2M. “John Carter opened in Russia on March 8, and had the highest opening day in Russian cinema history and went on to be the #1 opening weekend of the year,” the studio said “John Carter was the #1 U.S. film in all of our major opened markets in Asia, Latin America and Europe.” Globally, IMAX’s box office take this weekend was $9.5M, with Russia the standout market. (3D-crazy China opens March 16th.) IMAX accounted for 64% of North American business in 3D, or $5M, and its 289 domestic screens represented a disproportionate 17% of the film’s overall GBO. Exit studies confirmed that IMAX’s core audience of fanboys were the film’s most supportive audience.
8TH UPDATE, SUNDAY AM: So 2012 keeps posting strong box office, and this weekend’s $140M is up +8.6% over last year. Universal’s $70M-budget holdover Dr Suess’ The Lorax is a huge #1 again. But Disney’s 3D sci-fi newcomer John Carter finished a feeble #2 considering its whopping $250+M cost. Friday’s domestic box office numbers for director Andrew Stanton’s actioner came in even weaker than predicted but rival studios tell me the loincloth epic experienced an unexpected double-digit bounce on Saturday. Clearly word of mouth, like the ‘B+’ CinemaScore from audiences, is helping although reviews were decidedly mixed. Only Monday actuals will confirm whether Disney got its “miracle” and John Carter‘s North American box office opening this weekend had a ’3′ in front of it. But that still means a massive $100+M writeoff for the parent company if this dismal opening affects the new pic’s international fortunes. The studio’s Prince of Persia, for instance, opened similarly weak in North America, then made up its domestic deficit overseas. Disney made a gigantic worldwide day-and-date push for John Carter and says Russia was especially “very strong”. “We have some good starts in Europe, with some softer than we hoped. A few Asian territories are strong where this type of film plays well,” an exec tells me.
To summarize: this flop is the result of a studio trying to indulge Pixar… Of an arrogant director who ignored everybody’s warnings that he was making a film too faithful to Edgar Rice Burroughs’s first novel in the Barsoom series “A Princess of Mars”… Of the failure of Dick Cook, and Rich Ross, and Bob Iger to rein in Stanton’s excessive ego or pull the plug on the movie’s bloated budget … Of really rotten marketing that failed to explain the significant or scope of the film’s Civil War-to-Mars story and character arcs and instead made the 3D movie look way as generic as its eventual title… Disagree all you want, but Hollywood is telling me that competent marketing could have drawn in women with the love story, or attracted younger males who weren’t fanboys of the source material. Instead the campaign was as rigid and confusing as the movie itself, not to mention that ‘Before Star Wars, Before Avatar‘ tag line should have come at the start and not at the finish. But even more I think John Carter is a product of mogul wuss-ism as much as it is misplaced talent worship. More detail to come.
Disney wasn’t the only studio mourning. Eddie Murphy has yet another bomb in DreamWorks/Paramount’s A Thousand Words which received a ‘B-‘ CinemaScore. “A Thousand Words is the last live action movie to be released by Paramount that was produced by Dreamworks,” the studio made a point of telling me. Directed by Brian Robbins, the PG-13 comedy (with a zero score on Rotten Tomatoes) demonstrates the tragic degree to which reviewers and audience have deserted Eddie Murphy. Paramount marketing targeted a 4 1/2-week campaign to reach all African American adult audiences and older women. But I found that the spots never explained the movie’s premise adequately. On the other hand, no one cared. The trailer debuted last November. Lots of TV and radio were bought for female-oriented programs as well as high-profile NBA games. A week-long BET promotion released this past week along with promotions on Lifetime and Comedy Central. Paramount also made use of Tyler Perry’s popularity by piggybacking with his cable show House Of Payne and movie opening Good Deeds. Individual TV shows included BET’s The Game, VH1’s Basketball Wives, E!’s Khloe and Lamar and Ice Loves Coco. There was a “best of” Eddie Murphy content piece, with slideshows and additional videos. “With the scale of all partners combined, these placements potentially reached an audience of over 97 million monthly unique visitors online,” an exec tells me. Eddie himself did an extensive publicity campaign for the pic. And yet the movie tanked. Where Eddie’s career goes from here will be debated. He should have hosted the Oscars. Now he really needs to go back into television…
Open Road made a point of telling me it was only distributing the R-rated horror pic Silent House as “a service deal for our friends at LD Entertainment (formerly known as Liddell Entertainment”. Embarassing that audiences gave the genre film Silent House the dreaded ‘F’ CinemaScore. The film was budgeted at under $1M and and acquired by LD Entertainment at Sundance 2011 where the indie remake of the acclaimed ultra-low-budget Uruguayan film La Casa Muda (based on true events) premiered. In 2003 directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau enjoyed huge success with the low-budget thriller Open Water. Genre movie fans take their horror seriously.
Here’s the Top 10:
1. The Lorax (Universal) Week 2 [3,746 Theaters]
Friday $9.8M, Saturday $19.3M, Weekend $39M, Cume $121.9M
2. John Carter (Disney) NEW [3,749 Theaters]
Friday $9.8M, Saturday $12.3M, Weekend $30.6M
3. Project X (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,055 Theaters]
Friday $3.9M, Saturday $4.5M, Weekend $11.5M, Cume $40.1M
4. Silent House (LD Entertainment/Open Road) NEW [1,890 Theaters]
Friday $2.6M, Saturday $2.7M, Weekend $7M
5. Act Of Valor (Relativity) Week 3 [2,951 Theaters]
Friday $2.0M, Saturday $3.1M, Weekend $7M, Cume $56.1M
6. A Thousand Words (DreamWorks/Paramount) NEW [2,124 Theaters]
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $2.7M, Weekend $6.3M
7. Safe House (Universal) Week 5 [2,144 Theaters]
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $2.2M, Weekend $4.9M, Cume $115.7M
8. The Vow (Screen Gems/Sony) Week 5 [2,478 Theaters]
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $1.7M, Weekend $4M, Cume $117.6M
9. Journey 2 (Warner Bros) Week 5 [2,525 Theaters]
Friday $850K, Saturday $1.8M, Weekend $3.6M, Cume $90.7M
10. This Means War (Fox) Week 4 [1,848 Theaters]
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $#1.6M, Weekend $3.7M, Cume $46.8M