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Feature Film

Box Office Report: “Lorax” Beats “John Carter”

John Carter

An animated film led the US box office for the second week in a row: Illumination Entertainment’s The Lorax dropped 44% from its first week for an estimated earning of $39.1 million. Its two-week total now stands at $122 million, making it the top grossing film of the year to date. It is currently pacing $3.5 million ahead of Illumination’s biggest hit Despicable Me, which went on to earn $251.5 million domestically.

This weekend also saw the debut of John Carter, the first live-action feature from Pixar director Andrew Stanton (WALL·E, Finding Nemo). The megabudget sci-fi film, with a reported production cost of $200-300 million and marketing costs of $100 million, was positioned as Disney’s next “tentpole” property, along the lines of the Pirates of the Carribean franchise. It opened weakly, as expected by most industry observers as well as the Disney studio itself, with an estimated $30.6 million, on a par with the opening for Disney’s Prince of Persia, which opened with $30.1 million. It trailed the debut of last year’s sci-fi Cowboys & Aliens which opened with $36.4 million. The film’s saving grace may be its overseas performance, where it has opened powerfully, especially in Russia, and has already racked up over $70 million.

One can’t even begin to imagine the pressure that Stanton is under, but he hasn’t been particularly graceful in dealing with the film’s critical reception. In interviews, Stanton has been defensive about the film’s budget, and over the weekend, he wrote an oddly worded tweet that blamed moviegoers as “jaded” if they didn’t enjoy his film:

Andrew Stanton tweet

Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty added an extra $402,000 boosting its US total to $17.6 million. It is the fourth highest-grossing anime film ever released in the US, behind only Pokemon: The First Movie, Pokemon: The Movie 2000, and Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie.

  • Karl Hungus

    The problem with John Carter is that its marketing campaign was fixated on dazzling prospective ticketbuyers with the scope of it. Shots of CGI armies, shots of a coliseum of digitally created characters cheering, a distant planet scorched by the sun.

    Let me speak on behalf of the ticket buying public: we have ALREADY SEEN all of this. A dozen times at least.

    With that, its a hundred million dollars of marketing wasted. Give us some plot points, make the commercial a cliff hanger, entice us with what we don’t see rather than what CGI can show us. Watch the trailer for the first Pirates Of The Carribean film… and then watch the trailer for John Carter.

    There is seriously nothing in the John carter film I need to see. They spend the first 40 seconds of the trailer trying to dazzle with CGI. ( No thanks! ) Then they start selling the handsome hero – and I realized that I had seen this commercial before but it was called “Prince Of Persia”.

    What an absolute failure of a marketing campaign. They have no one to blame but themselves and if the movie is good, Andrew Stanton should cut his ties with Disney for their marketing department to be dropping the ball so badly.

    • Tak

      I saw John Carter (of Mars) & I enjoyed it. But for that kind of production dough & a $13 movie ticket I wouldn’t have expected any less. Andrew is a smart & talented guy, but a quarter of a billion dollars for anyone’s pet project is a complete mind job. How’re films like that even expected to make that money back (overnight!), it’s just ludicrous.

      People seem to forget just how much of making & selling movies is a gamble. It’s amusing to watch Stanton re-tweet on mass collections of ass kissing remarks about the film, but I guess it’s simply to balance out the film critics. I keep hearing this cry that “The Marketing Hath Failed Them!”. Really? For $100 million they still did a half assed job in selling your epic space adventure film? Pfffft! Where’s any of the key players responsibility on this?

      Whatever the fates deal to Disney & Stanton, remember that all of this is really just for the sake entertainment & making $. I wish worthwhile science & construction projects got that sort of venture capital. Oh, but I guess those kind of projects take real time & effort before you can really see any of their clear investment returns, & the Money Men don’t like that.

  • I saw John Carter on Saturday afternoon at the Arclight Sherman Oaks, and the theater was half empty, which didn’t seem like a very good sign. The movie has its fun moments, and the character animation on the aliens was really terrific. But I thought Taylor Kitsch was just bland as John Carter, lacking in any real personality or depth. I also thought the villains were pretty boring. They hardly did any development on Sab Than, the guy chosen to rule Barsoom and marry the princess. And Mark Strong who has normally played good villains in the past just wasn’t as scary as he could have been as Matal Shang. I had a hard time understanding who those robed guys were supposed to be and why they were doing what they were doing. It was probably explained, but I got kind of lost in all the exposition. Between that, the weird pacing, and a climax that ultimately peters out at the end, the movie is fun but far from greatness. I’m sure it will do well overseas, but here in the States I don’t think it has much hope of making its money back.

  • PRINCESS OF MARS was on SyFy channel today. JOHN CARTER is probably better than that.

  • Jackson

    The problem with John Carter is that it’s a half baked idea. The movie just isn’t very good. It’s poorly constructed, confusing, and dense to the point of turning audiences off. The acting is wildly varying, but with not much clear direction, it’s no wonder. The CG is what it is, but the designs of the film are truly awful and confusing. I spent half the time trying to keep track of who was who and what they were for. The sword fighting (and yet they fly space ships?) is awful, and amateurish. The Woola dog is cute, but it’s obvious Disney shoved it into the movie as much as possible in hopes of distracting audiences from how boring everything else is–it wears out its welcome fast.

    The theater was about 1/10 full, and one couple got up and left halfway through. I

    The truly awful marketing didn’t do this film any favors, but with so little to work with, it’s a no brainer as to why.

    • DonaldC

      I take it you prefer your juice without pulp?

  • I wouldn’t be too hard on Stanton’s behavior right now. Seeing one of your dream projects go down in smoke is bound to hurt.

  • really?

    I guess I don’t “get it” according to Mr. Stanton

    • Matt

      No, no you don’t.

  • Killigan

    I appreciated the almost Indiana Jones feel of it, with its hit-or-miss comedy and derring-do, but most of the film was mundane, especially the wooden acting. The most entertaining bit was the dog for sure.

  • I thought it was really well done. YES it’s corny and the stories a bit convoluted and feels familiar: but that’s because the story’s 100 years old. As I see it he could have either treated it in a campy, hokey way and we could all laugh at it, OR he could have just accepted that it’d be compared to subsequent space fantasy’s and gone sincere with it. He went sincere and said “to hell with it”. And yes there was a few bits that felt goofy, but that’s just because of the dated tone: I thought for the most part the character moments were inspired and the direction was handled with as much intelligence and grace as one could do with such pulp.

    Haha if I had one complaint it was that I wish the opening narration had been taken out.. though it’s hard to tell how many liberties one can take with the original material before it turns into a cynical, modern matrix knock off like so many other reboots. Hands down (four hands) I thought SOla was the strongest character in the story: haha of course Woola was my favorite but that’s an easier character to pull off (i’m a big faithful puppy, LOVE ME). Tarkas was delightful as well: and if the other characters are familiar archetypes, I think Stanton portrayed them well too.

    Anyone who’s sick of contemporary cynical sneering of old film genres, I think you’ll appreciate the rawness of John Carter: if nothing else it’ll spark lots of debate

    • Rajesh

      Tarzan is over a hundred years old too. Disney did a great job with that, even with the Phil Collins soundtrack. It’s the director’s job to make it work. Judging by the other comments here and the box office numbers, it didn’t.

      • Perhaps, but like many Disney animated adaptations, Tarzan worked because it had only the most basic of elements in common with the original script. John Carter tried to stay as close to the original story as possible. And box office numbers don’t always reflect the quality of a film, even if it reflects the success of it.

  • Chris

    I liked it quite a bit! The Raiders/pulpy tone was great but the star was definitely the animation on the Tharks, amazing!!

    Not so amazing? This article. If anyone read the interview Amid is talking about Stanton’s comment doesn’t sound particularly harsh or angry in tone, it just sounds like a guy having a conversation and calls something bullshit. Thats it. People say it all the time in conversations especially someone as animated as Mr. Stanton seems to be.

    As far as the jaded comment is concerned; in several recent interviews he has mentioned the pulp tone to the film and a key component being a sense of wonder or innocence thats needed to embrace that tone. So thats what he was referring to in the tweet. Maybe not something for twitter but I wouldn’t write an inflammatory article about how disgraceful the guys behavior is.

    • Tak

      “Thanks to everyone who ignored the schadenfreude and went to ‘Carter this weekend! You’re the best!”

      Andrew, what’s up with this schmazel? Why are we all getting very Jewish in our remarks? Just call apples apples. A lot of “The Critics” seem to have given JC(OM) a little bit of a critical hiding. But for a large part of their criticisms they only focus on what the film is similar to, how it feels like little new ground, that it’s too silly, or what it isn’t. But they don’t really focus much on what it is. Good, Big, Expensive Fun!

      As for the money thing. Ya win some, ya lose some. I’m sure it’ll turn a profit if your investors can stand to be patient. I personally think budgets are getting a tad insane, but hey… people gotta be payed. Especially those Producers, am I right?

      • Hoganilly

        Just a note: ‘schadenfreude’ isn’t yiddish. It’s good old fashioned German:

  • Frank Ziegler

    Saw it Friday and loved it. The film stayed very close to the book. Both Taylor Kitch and Lynn Collins were spot on. I thought Taylor was perfect as Carter . Effects were great. Score was excellent ! My only complaints are what a lot of others have pointed out. Pacing and or editing. Could have been tightened for sure and visually there needed to be more of a difference between the 2 warring cities. That being said, we had a blast at the movies Friday night ! If you havn’t seen it, give it a chance. Go to a matinee at least.

  • Scott B.

    While, as usual, the 3D I was forced to pay for was unnecessary, the movie was enjoyable. My wife and I went to see it last night with a full theater. The crowd seemed to enjoy it. I’ve read a lot of Tarzan books, but never any of ERB’s Mars books, yet I could follow the plot and keep track of the characters well enough. Before seeing it, I thought the budget was ridiculous, but after having seen it, I can see where the money was spent. I found it more engaging than Avatar, it had more scope and scale than Immortals, was easier to follow than any of the Pirates or Transformers movies, was better-done than Cowboys vs. Aliens, and didn’t irritate the heck out of me like Star Trek did– to compare it to several recent SF/fantasy epics.

    Perhaps international box office will justify sequels.

  • Royston

    Hey Amid,

    You’ve previously argued that Avatar should be considered an animated film – (see, but you describe John Carter as live-action. Can you explain the difference? Are only the successes to be considered animated films?

  • Scooch

    I found John Carter to be less convoluted and easier to follow than any Star Wars film, or for that matter any of the Pirates of Transformers movies people go gaga for.

  • I don’t think Stanton comes off badly in his comments. He made his film with an earnest intent, making exactly the film he wanted to see, and simply regrets that today’s audiences are too cynical to enjoy the pulp tone of it. I understand. Now, I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t speak to its reported weaknesses (I go to see it on Tuesday). However, reports of wooden acting, lack of scientific rationale, and too much action do nothing at all to deter me. It’s pulp— ya just gotta go with a lot. I read the book and loved it, by placing myself in the year 1912 (and in the mind of a twelve year old). Personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing the film.

    I am utterly convinced that if the original Star Wars were released for the first time today, it would bomb. We HAVE become jaded, which is natural. Just look at all the reviewers who say that John Carter is too derivative of other films, despite the fact that A Princess of Mars inspired so much of what has come since. The irony of their comments seems lost on them.

    Regardless of the quality of the film, I do regret the marketing of it, from the misguided change of title to the lack of emphasis on literary history and romance. And, of course, the fact that audiences watching the trailer had no idea that the film took place on Mars.

  • Ethan

    First of all, I personally thought this film was really fun to watch. It had every thing in it that I loved about the Star Wars films, the Indiana Jones films, etc.

    That being said, I did kind of feel Stanton struggling with the medium. It lacked the finesse and refinement that Stanton’s Wall-e had, and the emotional core that Nemo had. I also don’t think this movie was intended to be a Wall-e or a Nemo.

    I could see how some of the massive scale battle sequences would be difficult to shoot, stage, and time, but none of them really felt clumsy or overdone. In fact, the sequence when Carter learns how to fly was my favorite of the movie.

    I just felt like Kitsch wasn’t given the time on screen to really settle into John Carter. He had a pretty stellar emotional range in Friday Night Lights, but he needed more screen time to get there. I did think though that Lynn Collins was fantastic, and I enjoyed the mocap performances as well.

    Overall, I felt it was about six months and some hard story decisions away from being a superb film. If the plots and sub-plots were finessed just a little it would have been an A+. I still give a solid B+ though.

    • Rick R.

      I agree with you completely. Though they should have redone their arena so it didn’t look so completely like Geonosis, I told my friend who I saw it with that this was the first Star Wars movie not produced by George Lucas. According to an old interview with Speilberg, Stanton did fine on the budget, since Steven has said Star Wars movies would cost $500 million each if Lucas didn’t own ILM.

      The acting on JC was fine for its genre, and Lynn Collins was suitably gorgeous.

      The wrapper didn’t make much sense to me, though wikipedia assures me it’s in the books, but there would be issues of hydration, nutrition and *ahem* sanitation concerning the body left behind, but that’s in the original, so.. so be it. I agree it wasn’t A+ like Wall E and was about a B+.

      • Keith

        Rick, I think the way to think about the body left behind is ‘it’s in stasis’. It’s paused–no hair growth, no anything. Also, the desert arena never once reminded me of Geonosis, tho I see how it could; one big reason it didn’t remind me of it is I never for a moment thought Taylor was on a green-screen set, or that Tars, Sola, and the apes looked digital. They fit in so well, unlike the CG monsters (or even the Jedi actors & extras) from the Star Wars arena. The only thing that took me out of the scene was when Carter’s chain grows long enough to wrap around the ape a few times but there’s still enough slack for him to get back to the rock. It seemed a lot shorter earlier on.

  • Mike

    I heard Stanton interviewed on BBC radio last week, and the man did come off a little… well, cranky. Maybe he was just tired of answering the countless questions over the film’s mammoth budget and whether or not he was “feeling the pressure.” I don’t know. But it didn’t exactly place him (or his film) in the best light leading up to the premiere.

    I haven’t watched John Carter yet. Not sure I will. I mean, Stanton mentioned in the interview the main reason they dropped Mars from the title was that test audiences didn’t “like science fiction” and they wanted to reach a broader audience.

    Uh, what? Come again? So… I guess all those alien creatures shown in the trailer are to suggest it’s… what? A western? A romantic comedy? A buddy movie? Come back to Earth, pal—or at least back to Pixar.

  • BT

    I don’t see anything harsh about that comment at all, but maybe there are other ones I missed. I saw the movie with my wife and 3 of our friends, each with varying levels of excitement, and all 5 of us enjoyed it quite a bit. A big part of what’s fun about it is that it’s completely old fashioned and pulpy, to the point of staying true to a pre-space exploration idea of what Mars could be like. So the “unjaded” comment is clearly appropriate.

    Yes, it absolutely reminds me of the Star Wars movies in a good way, and it’s a great movie to carry on the Walt Disney live action tradition. Too bad they’ve failed enough with these types of adventure movies that they’ll probably be back to doing Tim Allen testicle injury comedies within a year.

    While I’m personally glad they didn’t give it away to me, I think Disney is crazy to not be showing much of Woola in the ads. Who wouldn’t love the “nice monster dog”?

    I can’t say how John Carter compares to The Lorax, because turning that particular character and story into the corporate product they did is so vile and reprehensible to me that I don’t think I can ever watch anything made by that studio ever and I hope it is destroyed by an earthquake and whatever remains is processed into recycled tampons.

    It’s sad to see good movies like John Carter be punished and the molestation of Dr. Seuss’s life’s work be rewarded, but on the positive side I’d love to see Stanton back in animation as soon as possible. John Carter is great fun, but Wall-E is a masterpiece.

  • snake

    Saw JCM and not even for a second did i have any empathy for the John Carter character that the movie is based around. If that’s how that character was written in the book then Stanton should have done something about it because as it turned out he is the weakest link in the movie. That and the weird pacing of the film which offered no major climax at any point in the story. Apart from those i thought the movie was alright. Good Cg/animation all round, detail rich sets and locales, many visually pleasing shots throughout and quite competent acting performances from the rest of the cast.

  • Roberto

    I also found the movie to be pretty entertaining for what it is. The acting wasn’t great and the plot was a little convoluted, but that’s actually a given in most blockbuster flicks of recent days. The characters, especially the CGI ones, had more charisma than those in Avatar and there weren’t as many twists or stupid humor as in Pirates 3 and 4 or any Transformers movie, and it did feel more classic in the execution. I really liked the “western” part. Bryan Cranston was awesome in his small role.

    I wonder if this would have had a better reception if it had been entirely animated. I know Pixar doesn’t make adaptations, but it would have probably felt more different in animation and probably better, since Stanton is more accustomed to that medium.

    On the other hand, Brad Bird’s direction on Mission Impossible was much better, but the script in that movie wasn’t so interesting either. It’s a totally different genre but I think the concepts in John Carter are more interesting and at the end of the movie I even found myself wanting to see the sequel.

  • Let’s hear it for the success of ARRIETTY. One out of three movies mentioned in this article that is actually GOOD.

  • Josef

    The movie failed for 2 reasons:

    1) Very few people have read the Barsoom novel series.
    2) No one wants to see a skinny He-Man fight aliens.

    The movie itself is very entertaining if you are willing to give it a chance, and the average movie-goer’s review reflects that. Andrew Stanton did a great job on the film and remains a great storyteller.

  • simple math

    I’ve been hearing Andrew Stanton lecture us all on the importance of “story, story. story” and about how audiences need to “care” for years now. Perhaps now nobody likes his story and nobody seems to care he might learn a little humility.

  • Oliver

    Seriously, to heck with Andrew Stanton. He has the nerve to criticise ‘The Lion King’ for “wussing out” when it comes to depicting predation and death, then goes and directs ‘Finding Nemo’… in which a parent’s death occurs both off-screen and early on, never to be dwelt on again, and fish getting chased by ravenous sharks is played for post-modern laughs.

    • Doug

      I think Stanton, as a director, needs some looking after. His two films for Pixar are very long-in-the-tooth. IMO WallE was just okay (if the last 2/3 of the movie lived up to the first 1/3 it would have been a masterpiece, as is its just ‘what could have been’). Nemo was gorgeous to look at and made me want to rip out my eyes by the end. END ALREADY!

      This record hasn’t had me running to the cinema to see John Carter (of Mars, that’s right MARS).

      • jn

        Pete Docter was responsible for the first 1/3 of WALL-E, which explains why it’s so different in tone from the other 2/3 (and why it’s so much better).

        (And if anyone wants a source confirming Docter’s responsibility for the beginning of WALL-E, that’s from this podcast here:

      • Doug

        Thanks for that JN!

  • Dirge

    Stanton has directed two of my favorite PIXAR films. I’m willing to let him stumble a bit in this new medium (for him) and look forward to when he gets his bearings and knocks one out of the park

  • Mac

    I saw this film with a friend at the weekend and we both liked it a lot. It reminded us of the old kind of adventure films you used to get in the 80s and I was definitely surprised by how many bad reviews it had received when I checked Rotten Tomatoes. However, I’m not surprised that it isn’t doing that great at the box office as the trailer didn’t impress me at all.

  • I saw John Carter with a sold out crowd of kids and adults who all seemed to enjoy it (including my wife & who knew very little about the film or source material going in). I’ll never understand why a movie like this bombs but James Cameron’s Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time and there’s already a sequel to Clash of the Titans. Even M.Nights The Last Airbender seemed to make a decent amount of money. Was the marketing John Carter that much worse than those movies? They all seem to look very similar in the trailers.

  • Ethan

    They should have called this movie ‘A Princess of Mars,’ and written it for Deja not John Carter. John Carter’s character arc could have happened more slowly throughout the planned trilogy.