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Posted at 11:27 AM ET, 03/12/2012

‘John Carter’: Box office flop or just a minor disappointment?


John Carter, attempting mightily to drag people to theaters. (Disney via AP)

There is little question that “John Carter” — the 3-D, sci-fi spectacle that was touted by Disney’s marketing gurus as the “first blockbuster of the year” — was the weekend’s big box office loser.

It opened in second place, edged out by an animated creature who speaks for the trees. (That would be “The Lorax.”) And it brought in just $30.6 million at the North American box office, which sounds like a decent amount of cash until one recalls that “John Carter” cost $250 million to make.

But does that make “John Carter” a total flop?

It definitely does not reflect well on the film, which earned largely negative reviews, though not nearly as negative as the ones for Eddie Murphy’s “A Thousand Words.” Let’s examine the facts.

Apparently “John Carter” did well overseas.

Outside North America, the film brought in $70.6 million, increasing its worldwide total to $101.2 million, a more comforting number for the executives currently sweating over the movie’s capacity to recoup its ridiculously swollen budget. Because apparently international moviegoers are more comfortable accepting dialogue peppered with words like Barsoom, Jeddak and Thark, “Carter” might continue to perform better outside the U.S. and Canada.

But that $70.6 million isn’t much to crow about.

Disney is touting the $70 million “John Carter” generated internationally because that makes the film appear to be a worldwide hit. But let’s be real about this: “The Lorax” made basically the same amount domestically when it rolled out in theaters last weekend. Yes, on multiple levels, a cartoon version of Danny DeVito outearned a shirtless Taylor Kitsch.

On the other hand, when another big action film, “Battle: Los Angeles,” opened on the same weekend last year, it also made only $35.5 million.

This is true. March isn’t exactly summer time and people might not be as multiplex-focused as they are in, say, June or July. But “Battle: Los Angeles” still managed to open in first place. And its $70 million budget was significantly lower than “John Carter’s,” so it did not have to travel the same distance to at least break even. Plus, one can also point out that...

Other blockbuster-type movies that opened in March performed much stronger than “John Carter.”

In 2010, “Alice in Wonderland” Mad Hattered its way to a $116 million debut in North America. And in 2009, “Watchmen” managed to generate $55 million worth of business during its March debut, despite the fact that the film is responsible for the worst use of the song “Hallelujah” in modern cinema.

The bottom line: Although matters could clearly be worse, even when its global box office intake is accounted for and it’s evaluated in the context of other, similar movies, “John Carter” was still kind of a dud. And it’s got one more weekend to own the action-flick space. If it doesn’t make up for missed dollars then, all hope is likely lost, because “The Hunger Games” arrives in theaters the following weekend.

Although no one knows for sure how much money that highly anticipated “Survivor”-esque saga will generate, this much is pretty clear: There’s no way Katniss is going to let her butt get kicked by “The Lorax.”

By  |  11:27 AM ET, 03/12/2012

Categories:  Box Office, Movies

 
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