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John Carter Box Office Verdict: Not So Good

"JOHN CARTER"

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch)

©2011 Disney. JOHN CARTER™ ERB, Inc.

Even big-budget, big-effects blockbuster John Carter wasn't able to unseat The Lorax, which seems to have cornered the family friendly market. The children's classic earned a comparatively massive $40 million in its second week, while the Martian epic was shunted to a humiliating second place for its opening weekend — it brought in $30 million. Considering Carter's $250 million cost, that's a pretty shabby performance, though the Disney PR machine immediately pointed out that it was "#1 U.S. film" abroad, where it earned some $70 million. (It even broke the record for highest-grossing Russian opener ever.) While its strong overseas box office may hold up enough to offset its weak domestic haul, Nikki Finke over at Deadline has some ideas about what (or, more accurately, who) is to blame for all this.

This flop is the result of a studio trying to indulge Pixar… Of an arrogant director who ignored everybody’s warnings that he was making a film too faithful to Edgar Rice Burroughs’s first novel in the Barsoom series A Princess of Mars… Of the failure of Dick Cook [former Walt Disney Studios chairman], and Rich Ross [current chairman], and Bob Iger [Walt Disney's President and CEO] to rein in Stanton’s excessive ego or pull the plug on the movie’s bloated budget.

That's Andrew Stanton, who became an industry legend directing Wall-E and Finding Nemo, and who had hoped John Carter would launch him into a new live-action career. However, the past several months were marred by rumors and reports of budget overages and excessive reshoots, prompting a whirlwind press tour by Stanton (including a stop at Vulture) to tamp down such perceptions.

Finke's not buying it, though. Sure, a poorly crafted and overly male-centered marketing strategy did some damage, she admits, but it's mismanagement that's really to blame. The film's only real fallback, it seems, is that "isn’t the worst film ever made or even especially horrible," as our own David Edelstein so diplomatically put it.

Photo: Disney