US News Media Buries “John Carter” Despite $100 Million Opening Weekend

How often do you see major entertainment and news organizations falling all over themselves to pretend that a movie like “John Carter” isn’t doing well? It’s like these journalists made such a big fuss about how “John Carter” was doomed that when the movie finally opened they intentionally downplayed all good news so as to try to kill the movie.

Yeah, Hollywood Reporter, I’m talking about you — and you, TIME, and you LA Times, and so on. If you want to know what the real story is about the “John Carter” box office is you almost have to stick to Forbes.

Here on Sunday night “The Lorax” has taken in about $123 million worldwide after 2 weeks and “John Carter” has taken in about $101 million worldwide after 3 days. Is it just me, or is the American news media struggling with the math?

The domestic box office looks dismal for “John Carter” — I will not dispute that. The movie has apparently only taken in around $30 million in the United States this weekend. This was despite hundreds or thousands of very favorable comments from viewers on social media sites — and the positive comments outpaced the negative comments by a factor of about 3 to 1 (this is not scientific but I looked at multiple Websites).

In other words, most of the people who see the movie like it. In fact, many of the commenters — who don’t have millions of visitors reading their comments — LOVE “John Carter”. But apparently the lack of enthusiasm among the young men ages 20-42 has grasped the media’s attention.

The majority of the audience appears to be made up of families, teens, and adults under 50 — but the majority of the positive comments are coming from women, especially young Taylor Kitsch-loving women.

If this trend holds true I think that the male audience will eventually follow because we all know that once the guys figure out that the girls love this movie they will follow the girls. And, besides, it’s a pretty good movie.

The most condescending post-release review I saw this weekend came from Locus, whose reviewer appears to be upset that Andrew Stanton could not resist updating the 100-year-old story for today’s audience. I mean, come on — be for real. Edgar Rice Burroughs was writing for a rather unsophisticated audience 100 years ago, as compared to today’s film-viewing audience. His readers in 1912 didn’t have 100 years of science fiction evolution laying the foundations of their expectations.

Still, all this confusion is not really the sensitive news media’s fault. It’s the fault of the Disney Company for not reaching out to and engaging the science fiction fan community starting 2 years ago. Successful film franchises are built on solid audience expectations these days and Disney went out of its way to confuse the story and the audience.

For example, why did they change the movie from “John Carter of Mars” to “John Carter”? The cover story for that major screwup is that they were afraid the audience would confuse the movie with “Mars Needs Moms”. Please. The audience would not have confused anything if Disney would have just been open and informative about the movie all along.

But to add insult to stupidty, Universal Pictures scooped Disney by signing a deal with AMC Theaters to insert the Lorax character (voiced by Danny DeVito) into AMC’s pre-film warning to the audience to please keep quiet. So every showing of “John Carter” at an AMC theater is pre-ceded by an ad for “The Lorax”. In fact, “The Lorax” has been inundating movie audiences with this kind of promotion for weeks.

What did Disney do to reach out to movie audiences? Virtually nothing.

Disney’s former VP of marketing, MT Carney, was supposed to ramp up Disney’s marketing machine. Instead she resigned under suspicious circumstances, apparently taking the fall for the failed marketing before her “plan” even began rolling out. But the real problem is that Disney’s Board of Directors and CEO have lost touch with the audience. They don’t understand that you MUST engage with the audience well in advance of a film’s release to build up anticipation for it.

The field is just too competitive.

All that is now water under the Battleship. Universal can expect to do well with its Taylor Kitsch movie because now they know who his demographic is — it ain’t the 30-42yo fanboys. Expect more advertising directed at women to come from Universal for “Battleship”.

But with a $100 million opening weekend “John Carter” doesn’t have to be written off as a total failure. It remains to be seen whether Disney can follow up this weekend’s strong worldwide showing with improved domestic promotion. Or maybe they don’t need to do so at all. Maybe the worldwide box office will return Disney’s $300 million investment (Production and Promotion costs combined). Maybe Disney will make $400 million off the film and greenlight the sequels.

Meanwhile, take what you read in the US news media with a huge bag of salt. They don’t want you to know how badly they called the shot, so they are NOT going to admit that “John Carter” had a HUGE opening weekend with $100 million.

More discussion follows at SF Fandom’s John Carter Forum.

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