Frankly, this should have been smooth sailing. One of the beloved novels ever being adapted by the genius director of Wall-E with plenty of budget to get it right, a great cast, state of the art special effects….what can go wrong? When we started this site, we imagined that by now, a little more than two weeks out, John Carter would be tracking like gangbusters en route to a $60m-70m opening weekend, sequels would be almost assured, and long suffering ERB fans would be on the verge of a once in a lifetime moment of something pretty close to pure ecstasy.
Instead, two weeks out, we are having to endure a constant onslaught of bad news. The tracking is bad; interest is low; critique of the promotion is getting very bloody. The latest is Newsweek saying that the buzz around Hollywood is that John Carter is Disney’s Ishtar — and if you aren’t old enough to remember Ishtar, that was the all time epic big studio fail. Being compared to Ishtar is basically apocalyptic.
On the other hand, every advance review that has slipped out into the blogosphere has been favorable and then some. The film itself seems poised to deliver the kind of great viewing experience that you’d expect when you put Edgar Rice Burroughs and Andrew Stanton into a petri dish for four years.
The question is this: In this day and age of social media, we the fans have more power than ever at any time in the past. We can say things, do things, that have impact far beyond our own geographical community.
Is it possible that a grassroots #gobarsoom effort could really make a difference?
On the one hand — I know it feels futile because Disney is out there spending $100m or more. How can anything we do make a difference?
But I’m here to tell you it CAN make a difference and I want to get some dialogue started about what people can do, and what we can do at JCF, to positive effect the outcome on opening weekend. Oh – and let me add one thing. There is a tendency among fans to just shrug off the promotional problems and say don’t worry, when it gets in theaters, word of mouth will take over and it will be fine.
Please do not fall into this trap!
Believe me when I tell you that if Disney — and we — don’t get enough warm bodies in seats on opening day, word of mouth alone won’t save it. If John Carter opens devastatingly low like many are now predicting — 20m or thereabouts — the most that word of mouth can be expected to do is carry it to 100m or so domestic gross and that’s a “fail” for a film with a 250m budget.
Here’s the reality — John Carter really truly needs to open with at least a $40m opening weekend to have a realistic shot, WITH good word of mouth and good reviews, to get to where it needs to go to generate a sequel.
In all probability it’s traveling toward an opening somewhere in the low thirties unless Disney suddenly figures out a different way to promote it (unlikely).
In that situation, can a fan community working together and being smart and savvy about how to do things actually have an impact on the outcome?
We think so.
Here is a preliminary list of things that we have thought of, and will support, and are asking fans to join in and help make happen:
Vigilance at Your Multiplex
Go to your local theater anytime, starting right now, and take pictures of the lobby displays for John Carter and the other upcoming pictures. Is John Carter properly represented? Send in your pix and/or your reports to us here, you can do it as a comment on any post or on this post in particular, or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to tell us the name and location of the theater. Disney has field operations people whom we will notify. You can also talk directly to the theater management and let them know your thoughts — but please make sure you share it with us as we will make sure the right people in positions of responsibility are alerted. It’s their job to make sure that things like lobby displays are competitive in every multiplex but they have a lot of multiplexes to worry about. We can help.
Really use the power of Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media
Use those buttons on posts you find here which you think are helpful. Share to Facebook is the easiest one and the one that gets used the most, but do you know how easy it is to use the “Reddit” social bookmark? You just sign up once, and after that, anytime you see an article you like, you click on the reddit button and it posts to reddit where you just mark it for “movies and entertainment” and it gets exposed hundreds and sometimes thousands more people. Unlike Twitter and Facebook — you can start using Reddit today and have an effect, you don’t have to build up a list of followers before it becomes effective. Stumbleupon is another easy one to use. We will put up a page about how to optimize social media, and if you want to help but are confused, just reach out to us at email@example.com and we will un-confuse you. It’s really simple and each person can make a real difference if you use these things wisely. (Is anyone in our community an expert? Make yourself known because if we have experts on call, and willing fans wishing to learn — we can match them up and optimize the result. Volunteer to teach, or be taught.)
Don’t be afraid to go to the IMDB Message Board and other boards
The IMDB Message Board for John Carter is a battleground and a lot of people are hesitant to pull out their sword and go into battle — just do it. Here is the link. IMDB John Carter Message Board. Also send in links to other message boards and we will consolidate all of them into a page that tells people where they can go to weigh in on active discussions. It can be frustrating but it helps.
Reach out to local media for fan generated news articles, tv clips, and radio interviews.
We are going to make this easy. By next week John Carter Files will have put together a #gobarsoom grassroots digital press kit that will make it easy for you to reach out to local media and tell them that you’re part of a grassroots fan group that is doing its own promotion for John Carter. The press kit will give them the basis to do an article or a special which includes an interview of the fan that reached out to them, and more about John Carter and fan engagement. We will provide more details about how to do this but it’s simple. It’s a good story for them, and now it’s easy to find the right people in local media. We will support you in this process.
Retweet Andrew Stanton’s tweet about our fan trailer and/or send people to view it at Youtube.
At this point we know for a fact that the JCF fan trailer is getting the best response of any trailer or TV spot out there. The focus group poll showed it winning 86%-14% and now Andrew Stanton has given it a big push. People who see this trailer generally react better so help get more people to see it. And if you see other pieces of fan generated media or art, let us know about it and we’ll help spread the word.
— andrew stanton (@andrewstanton) February 20, 2012
Let us know your ideas, or help refine the ones we’ve put forward. You really can make a difference.
UPDATE : I just checked — 1000 views of this article in the first five hours it’s up here. What’s up with that? Are you people hitting the social media buttons or what? This is great — it shows that people want to do something, and I’m hoping that it’s showing the power of using those social media buttons just down below.
Here are the stats of the the first five hours — seriously, it must be people picking up on the social media buttons. For an article like this I would normally expect a few hundred views in the first day. See — we CAN make a difference! TY. DS