Need proof that a trailer's reception can make or break a movie at the box office? Take Disney's John Carter, which opened in US theaters nationwide this past weekend. Expectations were high for the science fantasy action flick based heavily on Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars novel — part of the author's Barsoom series. The $250M project also marks the live action directorial debut of Andrew Stanton, known best for his long tenure at Pixar Animation Studios. Yet with all the makings of a box office smash, John Carter had one of the more disastrous opening weekends in recent memory for a big budget film, taking in a paltry $30 million. What caused John Carter to bomb exactly? Over at Vulture, Claude Brodesser-Akner has put together a behind-the-scenes account that focuses primary blame on a poorly-executed advertising campaign, led by an abysmal teaser trailer that hit cinemas last July.
It's an intriguing read that goes on to profile a director determined to remain loyal to his source material even as Disney studio executives and outside ad consultants pled for a shift in strategy. Stanton's inexperience with live action filming along with his refusal to tie a glowing resume of animated classics to the movie — lest it attract a "for kids" label — were additional factors that compounded the problems facing John Carter. Still, that's not to say all is lost. Its lukewarm reception notwithstanding, Disney's latest could always experience a resurgence in the weeks to come, with future DVD / Blu-ray sales also helping to recoup losses. As the old saying goes, though, first impressions are everything.