If there is a truism in Hollywood when it comes to the media, it’s that people in the industry never think you’re nasty, mean or vicious enough when writing about someone else’s movie. It’s a business, after all, where people root just as hard to see their friends fail as their enemies.
So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear from so many studio execs, producers and agents this week, all wondering the same thing: Why hasn’t the entertainment press been giving “Battleship” just as big a whipping as it gave “John Carter” a couple of months ago? After all, both films cost more than $200 million to make, an additional $100 million to market and, despite OK performances overseas, were pretty much dead on arrival in the United States.
Their overall numbers aren’t all that different. Disney’s “John Carter” did a paltry $72 million in the United States and an additional $210 million overseas; “Universal’s “Battleship” is on track to do even less in America than “John Carter” while so far making $232 million overseas. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Universal could lose $150 million on “Battleship,” while Disney took a $200-million write-down on “John Carter.”
Those are both huge bites out of a rotten apple, yet while “John Carter” got a noisy, prolonged thrashing from the showbiz media, “Battleship” has largely escaped scrutiny, except for a predictable round of opening weekend obituaries. (If I had a dollar for every headline that went “ ‘Avengers’ sinks ‘Battleship,’” I could probably finance a couple of movies myself.)