Well before it hit theaters, it was predicted that John Carter would be the biggest write-off in cinema history, and sadly that prophecy has now come true.
With nowhere to run or hide, Disney has publicly admitted defeat, and that the loss is in the range of $200 million, even more than many box office pundits predicted.
As the L.A. Times reports, John Carter cost Disney $350 million in production and marketing costs, and has hauled in “just” $184 million worldwide. (I’d love to have “just” $184 million in the bank myself).
As one source told the paper, “the movie will take one of the biggest losses in recent memory,” practically making it the sci-fi Heaven’s Gate, except of course unlike that film, John Carter won’t put the studio out of business like Gate sank United Artists in the early eighties.
Still, $200 million is definitely a big loss, and again, there was speculation it would be in the neighborhood of $100-165 million. And of course, there’s tons of arm-chair quarterbacking about how it all got screwed up, and what, if anything, could have saved the film.
The Wrap had an interesting theory that the artwork of the late, great fantasy artist Frank Frazetta could have helped the film, Heavy Metal magazine regular Richard Corben could have created some wild sh*t for it too, as well as Boris Vallejo.
This theory was also posited by Carole Mallory, who was a live action actress for the Ralph Bakshi / Frazetta fantasy Fire and Ice. Bakshi was probably the king of rotoscope animation, which means you shoot a film in live action, then draw over it. (Bakshi once told me a lot of people looked down on rotoscoping, but he believed even Disney did it).
As Mallory also tells us, Frazetta knew Edgar Rice Burroughs, they were friends and fans of each other, and Frank was one of the first artists who illustrated the John Carter books. As for whether Frazetta’s art could have saved the film or not, don’t forget Fire and Ice was a flop, and as John Carter proves, movies are always an enormous crap shoot. What will work, what won’t work, who knows?
And like they say in the mob, after a victory, many heroes will present themselves. As they also say in Hollywood, success has a thousand fathers, but failure’s always an orphan.