A massive flop

Disney has admitted that its $250-million-budget science fiction adventure John Carter is on course to be one of the biggest flops in Hollywood history, as it braces itself to lose $200-million after disappointing box-office results.

The film, directed by Andrew Stanton of the Pixar animation house, opened poorly in the United States with just $30-million. It has been more successful outside the US, with big openings in Russia and Britain.

But that box-office revenue is shared with the cinema chains, and Disney is estimated to have spent between $50-million and $100-million more on marketing.

The film is based on the first in a series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, telling the story of a retired US civil war soldier who miraculously finds himself transported to Mars.

Other big-budget films have taken less at the box office in recent years — Breck Eisner’s Sahara took $68.7-million in 2005, and Oliver Stone’s Alexander managed just $34.3-million the previous year. But John Carter’s massive budget has made it a bigger casualty.

In a statement to Wall Street, Disney said: “In light of the theatrical performance of John Carter, we expect the film to generate an operating loss of approximately $200-million” — pushing the studio into losses of up to $120-million in the second quarter.

Bad as the figures appear, John Carter has at least performed slightly better (or less badly) than Hollywood’s all-time clunkers.

Its net loss, on the simple calculation of budget against box office, is likely to be between $50-million and $100-million, putting it some way behind 1995’s Cut-throat Island, which lost an inflation-adjusted $147.2-million, or Heaven’s Gate, at $114.3-million.

Stanton had hoped to direct a series of sequels based on Rice Burroughs’s 11-novel series, but that now seems unlikely.

Stanton, whose Pixar films Finding Nemo and Wall-E both won best animation Oscars, recently said he was expecting to go straight into a second John Carter film after the first, and had no other projects lined up.

John Carter‘s box-office failure stands in sharp contrast to the success of another high-profile film from a Pixar veteran shooting his first live-action feature: Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol became the highest-grossing film in the Tom Cruise spy series earlier this year, taking $691-million worldwide. —

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