Chalk It Up To Bad Marketing

John Carter - from DisneyDisney’s long-in-development “John Carter” took in $30.6 million at the box office last weekend, typically a respectable figure. So why are most media outlets calling it a bomb?

Probably because several sources (including The New York Times, in a story with the scathing headline “‘Ishtar’ Lands On Mars”) have the film’s production and marketing budget estimated at a whopping $350 million, meaning the movie has to do “Titanic”-style business to even have a shot at breaking even. Which it’s not.

Still, “John Carter” made over $100 million when worldwide figures are included, so it’s far from an unmitigated disaster. Most of the critical feeding frenzy can be chalked up to a months-long realization that Disney has been running one of the worst marketing campaigns in recent memory. The typically savvy studio is failing to capitalize on any number of selling points the film possesses.

The movie is based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs story called “A Princess of Mars,” which served as the inspiration for modern sci-fi classics like “Star Wars” and “Avatar.” Andrew Stanton, the talented visionary behind for “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E,” directed it.

The screenplay was co-written by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon. Taylor Kitsch, who plays the titular character, had a breakout role in the critically acclaimed television drama “Friday Night Lights.”

Is any of that on the poster? Nope. Instead, Disney changed the evocative title to something ridiculously vague and slapped it on a red background that tells you nothing about the movie. The pop culture media loves schadenfreude, and the decision-making process behind the scenes of “John Carter” gave people the chance to wallow in it.

Too bad, since the film itself — although heavily flawed — is actually quite entertaining. It even provides the opportunity for something Hollywood generally loves: lots of sequels. Something tells me that won’t be happening any time soon.

Josh Sewell

Josh Sewell

Josh Sewell is coordinator of marketing publications at the University of West Georgia, as well as the film critic for the Times-Georgian in Carrollton. He has written numerous articles on film, television and pop culture. He received his B.A. in mass communications and M.A. in English from UWG.