Guest Blogger Daria Brooks: Enjoying John Carter’s Second Run

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Daria Brooks is one of the key members of the Back To Barsoom John Carter II Facebook Group, and was the originator of Last Trip to Barsoom that succeeded in getting a bigger audience at El Capitan Theater for the last showing of John Carter than at any previous time, including opening night.  As the first run of John Carter was coming to a close, Daria and her sister Madeline had seen the film in theaters about a dozen times (could have been a few more) …. but as it turned out, their greatest enjoyment of the film in theaters came after the first run was over, and the film moved to second run theaters where they continued going to see it, in the end seeing it 38 times in theaters.

I asked Daria — who is a young adult novelist (see her bio at the end) to provide some notes on her experience in the second run theaters to help me cover that part of the story in John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood.  I’m sharing it here, as I think her description is worth reading and thinking about:

Enjoying John Carter’s Second Run

by Daria Brooks

While loyal legions of Los Angeles area fans said ‘goodbye’ to “John Carter” with their “Last Trip To Barsoom” fete on April 19, 2012, that date marked the beginning of a welcomed and lengthy run for the movie in hundreds of second-run neighborhood cinemas in the United States. My sister, Madeline Gann, and I were privileged to witness the staggering change in the makeup of audience numbers for this remarkably satisfying film, personally ‘nursing’ Andrew Stanton’s ‘magnum opus’ through an additional ten weeks of screenings. While my personal desire for “Last Trip” was to see the film’s initial run end in a celebratory bang rather than a whimper, Madeline and I used the successive two and a half-month run to document how “John Carter” went from anemic attendance numbers of 7-20 people to filling 300 seat auditoriums over the course of our 38 screenings.

It is important to note that nearly all advertising stopped for “John Carter” after March 10, and by its final day at Disney’s El Capitan, it had long left the first-run cinemas across the U.S. Even before it was briefly paired at drive-in theaters during the week of May 4 through May 10 for the States-side release of Marvel’s “The Avengers,” Stanton’s film had been garnering steadily increasing audiences night after night in hundreds of neighborhood cinemas. The film’s presence climbed to 349 theaters that week—the most exhibitors hosting it since April 12—allowing it to handily add $1,694,105 to its box office totals during that week alone.* In the midst of what became an eight-week run at the historic Academy Cinema in Pasadena, California, my sister and I approached manager Refugio Vargas to thank him for keeping the movie there long enough for us to manage twenty-five screenings. “Are you kidding?” he replied incredulously. “This film is packing people in every night and they seem to really like it!”

Indeed they did like it, for these second-run cinema audiences were the polar opposite of what we saw in Hollywood and several other first-run houses. At each screening we attended, the audiences grew in size from little better than half-filled 150 seat rooms to a surprising “I’m not sure there are any seats left,” the warning we received upon arriving a few moments late for a 285 seat 3D screening at the Picture Show At Main Place in Santa Ana. These audiences, who added more than $4.2 million to Disney’s coffers, could not have been more receptive: They laughed heartily during humorous scenes, cheered loudly for the heroes and audibly balked at Tardos Mors’ outburst at his daughter’s refusal of Sab Than’s proposal. Women openly sighed during John Carter’s proposal to his beloved princess, wept at the dramatic final scene of the film, and everyone from the smallest child to the eldest grandfather clapped for Woola, their new favorite fantasy pet. Most affirming of all, during the additional twenty-five shows attended between April 19 and the film’s final screening on June 28, we witnessed enthusiastic ovations at the end of nearly every show. It was this brand of bona fide enthrallment that caused these unsung fans and so many others to descend upon stores on June 5, snapping up millions of copies of the Blu-ray/DVD release to such a degree that store shelves across the country were bare in less than twenty-four hours. The long-beleaguered “John Carter” may have begun life in American cinemas with a whimpering lack of audience attendance, but its egress was nothing short of a spectacular success.


About Daria Brooks

Consumed by rock music, animation and superhero comic books since age four, writer D H Brooks studied Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at California State University Long Beach, working toward a degree in Electronic Media. Having developed a great interest in Atlantis-related subjects, Ms. Brooks first wrote of the aquatic denizens of Nereidia in comic book form in 1993. She supplied research notes for TechTV’s ‘pop-up’ version of the series “Thunderbirds” ™, as well as material she licensed to A&E Home Video for the DVD “The Best Of Thunderbirds.” A lifelong Southern California resident, the author lives in Los Angeles, never far from her beloved Pacific Ocean. “A Legacy Of The Pacific” is her debut novel.  Visit


  • Pascalahad says, “I won’t call it a masterpiece, because I still thinks its construction has inherent, objective, cinematic flaws, but it has tremendous heart, and it’s the most important. A movie that initiates that kind of passion can’t be bad!”

    TREMENDOUS HEART….that’s what I got from John Carter also. I FEEL so much when watching the movie. One of Andrew Stanton’s goals for every movie is to include some awe, or sense of child-like wonder. I felt it….watching Carter jump for the first time on Mars, the look on Tarkas’ face when he saw Carter jump, Dejah’s wonder when she first sees Carter in action, Woolah digging in to fight with Carter, Sola’s pain, Dejah’s strength and determination….I could go on. I can’t think of many movies where I FELT so much of what the characters were going through. I was literally sad and angry when when the credits rolled with Carter still on Earh. “Damn!” is what I screamed to myself. I want to see what happens next!

    Daria said,

    “This is one of the few films I would compare to the massive, general appeal of “Star Wars” or “Raiders Of The Lost Ark.” I know a great many people in my life who are not “into” anything in particular…When they’ve borrowed my copy or saw the film on their own, they loved it and had no problem saying so.”

    Exactly. It mystifies me how John Carter is considered a “flop”. The word Sheundfreud (I’m WAY mis-spelling that) was brought up by Stanton. I buy into that. The $250 million pricetag became oddly exciting to web media bloggers everywhere. When those bloggers saw the film, and saw that it was a little unconventional, had an old-school look, and had elements they’d seen in other sci-fi films, it was easy and fun and cool to bag on it. I think it was a classic case of perception becoming reality.

  • I don’t know what to tell you, MCR, but part of me truly feels for your curmudgeonly view of this film. I’ve been where you are, honestly. I’ve been a big fan of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s “Thunderbirds” since early childhood, and, like you, I don’t like seeing life-long loves altered. Lots of us “Thunderbirds” fans were very upset with the scripting of the long-awaited live-action film of 2004. We knew Universal had been picking apart script after script for over ten years, and we knew they wanted to “alter it for a modern audience” to the detriment of the source material (which is why they did everything possible to keep fans and the general public alike from seeing an advance print of the movie). I saw the midnight screening prior to opening day and nearly cried…and then I saw it again, several times, and made peace with what they did wrong (lots!) and enjoyed the few things they did right. In other words, I got over my fangirl objections, accepted what I couldn’t change and fell in love with the good parts. (Thank you, St. Francis)! I’m not saying that this will work for you—it might take a major attitude adjustment–but you’ll feel better. Really. (Yeah, I hated “Pollyanna” when I was young, but it’s one of those “live and learn” things).

    I’m awaiting the day that some animation studio wants to make a feature film of my novel and I pray I won’t be so stuck on my own perceived cleverness that I wouldn’t take constructive tweaking of some of my ideas. Even JK Rowling had to bow to a few key alterations on the translation of “Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix” before it was filmed. It happens.

    As for the topic at hand (and your mention of a bad 3D print), it is interesting also to note that the 3D prints in the second-runs were far more popular than the 2D version, with the attendance outnumbering the 2D screenings by easily 3 to 1. The theater in Santa Ana even added a $2 surcharge for the use of 3D glasses, but no one seemed mind. In fact, attendance at the 3D screenings (beautiful print, btw) so outpaced the 2D that the manager soon cut the 2D to a single screening per day so as to add an extra 3D show. Even during the final week (two weeks AFTER the DVD/PPV release, mind you) when screenings whittled down to two per day, the more expensive 3D screening was still the more popular of the two. The final screening was about half-filled (roughly 120 people) in the afternoon on a Thursday. Not bad at all.

    One other thing: I’m not sure why it is such a surprise to anyone that general film audiences really like this film, once they find it. It is so very like the action/adventure serials that kids of my mother’s era ran to see at the cinemas every week for years on end–you know, the ones which kept little outfits like Republic Pictures alive, or like the films which made Douglas Fairbanks a star. I almost wonder if this attitude is down to that sort of prissy, fanboyish “This is MY thing!” routine that some of us hold onto when we like something that the general public doesn’t know about. (Guilty as charged here, at times—remember the New Wave before MTV got hold of it)? This is one of the few films I would compare to the massive, general appeal of “Star Wars” or “Raiders Of The Lost Ark.” I know a great many people in my life who are not “into” anything in particular—they have no bias about this movie studio or that, this director or that; they don’t care about movie stars or screenwriters. They just know what they like when they see it. Most of those folks have no clue who Edgar Rice Burroughs was, have never read his books (though they can tell you all about “Tarzan”) and couldn’t care less who directed “John Carter.” When they’ve borrowed my copy or saw the film on their own, they loved it and had no problem saying so. (Some of them even gush over it, just like me…well, maybe without the jumping up and down and giggling and all). It doesn’t take being a “fan” to become enthusiastic about this movie—it just takes a pair of open eyes, ears and an open mind. And if you don’t like it, that’s OK too (but don’t rain of everyone else’s parade. ’cause we’re having FUN)!

  • Thanks for sharing! Yes, this movie feels like something special. I was disappointed at first by it, but it grew strongly on me in time. I understand MCR’s comments because I’ve been in this place too. In general, I make an opinion on a movie I just saw, and it rarely, if ever, shifts, and if it does, it never gets better, only worse (yes, Star Wars prequels, I’m looking at you)! John Carter is a major exception to that rule. I won’t call it a masterpiece, because I still thinks its construction has inherent, objective, cinematic flaws, but it has tremendous heart, and it’s the most important. A movie that initiates that kind of passion can’t be bad!

  • Daria, your fangirlishness is clear in this blog. But, since my own has been very much in evidence since I saw John Carter, I can only say THANK YOU for such a lovely, intelligently written piece. When a movie excites like this one did for many of us, it is a bit difficult to tone down the sparks and write in a calm manner. I think maybe you wanted to turn cartwheels in the aisles because so many others were seeing and liking the movie. But, that wouldn’t have been dignified.
    I am sorry that there are those who can’t see the wonder of John Carter. .

  • I wish I would have found it in a second run theater around us. I wanted to see it a third or fourth time. I found out after it had the limited run in drive-ins that we actually had two near us, even after I looked. I never saw a listing for them.

    I just hope that it gets the sequels it deserves!
    Back to Barsoom!

  • This beautiful movie works on so many levels — it’s literature — it’s romance — it’s an action tale — it’s classic sci-fi. “JOHN CARTER” is fascinating to watch — entrancing and fulfilling. Such a beautifully crafted film — I think it’s Andrew Stanton’s finest work to date. What a sad illustration of how dependent the modern world has become on marketing that this magnificent opus did not receive the overwhelmingly positive response it deserves!

  • I only saw the 2D version, MCR, as I can’t stand 3D films because I get a headache watching them. But I think it boils down to expectations. You have a very well formed ideal of how ERB’s work should be, rooted in his words and your imagination. I was more of a blank slate going in as I didn’t remember much of what I read from years ago and my most recent exposure to JC had been art related. I also only had Ebert’s semi-positive review to go on as I had heard that morning from our movie reviewer at the TV station where I work that he didn’t think it was good (but he doesn’t like much science fiction). The only thing I can equate your feelings to is seeing Superman and only liking certain parts a lot and mildly enjoying the rest and being disappointed in Supergirl, though Helen Slater grew on me – much of the rest could’ve been different. Those were my two favorite comic book characters from the mid-1960s to mid 1970s. One film doing really well and the other bombing. So I can relate from that angle. But I have to say you remind me of a friend who absolutely thought Star Wars sucked and was stupid while everyone else was enjoying it or going crazy over it. The sense of wonder can evade many at times. That’s life. You can’t please everyone.

  • “It’s long past time for Disney to say “YES!” to the sequel all of us hard-traveling fans want!”

    Yeah so we can see more of Burroughs’ work end up in the wrong hands.

    What about us fans of ERB who didn’t care for this movie? Should we-small minority that we are-just be enthusastic about a sequel to a movie that didn’t get it right to start with? I’m sure those audiences, most of them probably happy they didn’t have to spend the money on the poor 3D version as I had the misfortune to-didn’t care how badly the filmmakers trashed the material but I do.

    Also I have to ask-is there going to be any dissenting opinions in your book? I do support your work but it seems to be all gushing over this film with no one offering a different viewpoint? I know this will get me chewed out again for being petty and being mean spirited but I just don’t understand how the movie I saw was so bad yet so many of you act like it was the greatest film ever. Must have been a different cut I saw.

  • Bravo, Daria, for a very well-written piece! But of course, this comes as no surprise. Folks, although the target audience for Daria’s novel, A Legacy of the Pacific, is young adults, readers of all ages will find it highly enjoyable.

  • I remember when Daria and Madeline first told us about the enthusiasm they saw for the movie in second-run theaters. It was encouraging news! Over those weeks, it seems to have won over new fans that didn’t care about all the negative press, and who were willing to engage with the movie in a more authentic way.

    Makes me want it to be re-released during the holidays more than ever…

  • Many thanks for posting this, Dotar Sojat–and thanks for your comments, folks. From what we were able to tell, the success in the second-run houses was completely down to word of mouth. Many of these unsung movie-goers likely never saw advertising for the film back in February and March, but they were more than happy to advertise for Disney by telling their friends and families about how great this movie is. Many of them only took a chance on it because of the lobby posters, and I recall hearing folks state that they’d either never heard of it before or never knew that it was a Disney film–because the name “Disney” alone would have gotten them into the theaters during the initial run. (Maybe it wasn’t so smart for Disney to fade their logo so drastically on their own advertising, huh)? We listened intently to the chatter as people left screenings and beamed with pride every time we heard, “Wow–that was really great!” Yep–as we all know, it really IS great! It’s long past time for Disney to say “YES!” to the sequel all of us hard-traveling fans want!

  • Thanks, Daria. Good to know the fans kept JOHN CARTER in theaters for so long. I’ve bought my DVD and I’m hoping Disney will give us a sequel.

  • My friends and I loved the “John Carter” movie, and I still don’t understand how critics and Disney could have called it a box office flop when it had barely been released. I’m glad to read your account of how many more people got to see it and enjoy it. Hope we will somehow get the rest of the trilogy — with the same cast!

  • Daria!!! What a terrific article! I think it means and says so much that fans were more instrumental in seeing John Carter during that time period that when the film first came out. We certainly know why many didn’t see it initially, so I really think that you and Maddie and our Back To Barsoom group and everything we are accomplishing has had an effect on the public. People are getting more and more curious about John Carter as we forge ahead. Let’s keep it that way everyone! Thanks again for this great article!

  • I saw a couple of second-run showings here in the Detroit area and they definitely were much better attended than in the first run theaters. One showing had to have at least 60 people there, maybe more, because people kept coming in after the movie started and I didn’t have a chance to see and count them all. The DVDs also moved very well here at the Best Buy stores I visited (4 different stores) when it debuted. A couple of the workers were surprised because they didn’t know anything about the movie before seeing the promo clip running on the Best Buy big screen TV displays!! (Thanks to awful promotion the months before!) You couldn’t find the special Best Buy DVD package after the first week around here!

  • I hadn’t really realized how well it was doing in second-run! I knew many people found it after the main run, but this is so cool to read! It just goes to show what I’ve realized through this whole drama… that the majority of people just didn’t even go see John Carter in theaters. They didn’t go see it and hate it, they skipped it entirely and most, discovering it afterwards, really liked it or even loved it! Thanks, Daria for sharing with us!! 😀

  • It was second run theaters like this helped me to see John Carter in the theaters. I was so busy in March, I had no time to see it, and had no idea how good the movie was until I saw it for myself. I am really glad though that I did!

  • A well written discussion about an interesting topic— the aftermath of a film after it goes from the 1st run to the 2nd run theaters. The reaction of the theater goers in those 2nd run theaters confirm what all of us who enjoyed that film always knew—– John Carter is a great movie !

  • Thanks for sharing, Daria. I am glad there were some many packed houses. “John Carter” was a really fun movie for all ages.

  • What a wonderful look back at the wonderful film John Carter. I love John Carter, and think it combines the best of Star Wars and Raiders in one amazingly original and spectacular movie. The tragedy of Disney’s horrible marketing and literal sabotaging of this movie boggle the mind to this day. In spite of everything Disney did to kill their own golden goose, it still has earned more than $300 million worldwide and of course I’m one of the tens of thousands clamoring for Disney to green-light the already planned sequels. Thanks Daria for such a wonderful fan’s perspective on all things John Carter!!!

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