Now that Schadenfreude fever is beginning to subside, there is a tiny bit of revisionist box office history is starting to emerge as more sober-minded film journalists begin to pull back from their initial assessments and start putting the #100m opening weekend of John Carter into reasonable perspective. Here is one such article from Hollywood.com. Hopefully there will be more like this and less of the “Ishtar 2012” articles that we’ve been seeing.
John Carter’s Long Struggle to Break Even
Mega-budgeted blockbusters all face the same challenge: make back the money. Sure, profit is always helpful, but at a certain point, throwing the “event,” impressing the audiences and earning back all the cash poured into the endeavor becomes the bigger priority.
Not an easy task, and no movie in theaters right now (or, quite possibly, in movie history) is starring up that mountainside like Disney’s John Carter. The movie opened last weekend with a $30.6 million domestic gross, which wouldn’t seem too shabby…if it weren’t for the reported budget of $250 million (which may be closer to $400 million after marketing). The silver lining for the Taylor Kitsch-led adventure flick is that it was a hit overseas, bringing in another $40 million and finally crossing the $100 million worldwide line this week. That may sound like the path to breaking even, but the zen road to financial inner-peace is a bit trickier than it may seem.
The amount of money a movie grosses doesn’t simply funnel directly into the pockets of the movie studio. Hollywood.com’s Box Office Editor Paul Dergarabedian explains:
“[The studios] have to split theatrical with the exhibitors at about 50%, Disney might wind up with $175 M off the theatrical alone. Now there will still be ancillary sales, DVD, VOD, broadcast rights etc. so it will not be a total bust. However, anytime you spend this much on a movie it gets very tough to recoup your costs. They needed this to be $800 million to $1 billion movie worldwide at that budget to really make it worth their while. Remember too, that success at the theatrical level has a positive (or conversely) negative ripple effect on later sales. For John Carter, the lack of theatrical success hurts its long term prospects to make its money back.”