Is John Carter the biggest flop of all time?

A scene from troubled film John Carter. Photo / Supplied
A scene from troubled film John Carter. Photo / Supplied

Its makers had hoped it would be the next big adventure movie franchise. Disney had even planned sequels and a theme park.

But John Carter, an unlikely tale about an American Civil War soldier who ends up on Mars, is on course to lose more money than any movie in history.

Its producers admitted the film, released in the UK a fortnight ago, is set for losses of more than US$200 million (NZ$243m).

Disney, which was hoping the 3D production would achieve the same success as its Pirates of the Caribbean series, lavished close to US$250 million making John Carter and a further US$100 million on global marketing and advertising.

The film features newcomer Taylor Kitsch as Carter along with British stars Samantha Morton, Dominic West, Mark Strong and Ciaran Hinds.

But the company has projected that it will lose millions after it failed to impress critics and the public alike.

Audience reviews have branded it "dull", "pointless" and "too long".

BBC reviewer Mark Kermode said: "The storytelling is incomprehensible, the characterisation is ludicrous, the story is two and a quarter hours long and it's a boring, boring, boring two and a quarter hours long."

Disney said John Carter had brought in about US$184 million in ticket sales worldwide so far but it retains only half of that as the money is split equally with cinema chains.

A spokesman confirmed: "In light of the theatrical performance of John Carter, we expect the film to generate an operating loss of approximately US$200 million."

He added that its failure would mean the studio itself will lose up to US$120 million for the quarter as the profits from other films and ventures are not enough to break even.

Disney would not confirm the total budget of the film as it has held the rights since 2007 and spent additional money on developing the idea.

But industry sources have said it may need to gross more than US$600 million for the film to make all its money back.

The poor performance of the film is a surprise, because its director, Pixar's Andrew Stanton, had previously achieved acclaim with Finding Nemo and Wall-E.

John Carter is based on a series of books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who also created Tarzan. The stories follow a war veteran who finds himself transported to Mars and battling to save the planet's inhabitants.

The series began with A Princess of Mars in 1912 and ended with John Carter of Mars, published after the author's death in 1964.

Industry experts believe Disney's figures for John Carter make it the biggest box office disaster ever.

But it is difficult to make comparisons as studios reveal little financial detail and allowances have to be made for inflation.

When Kevin Costner's ambitious US$175 million epic Waterworld was released in 1995 it was condemned as the biggest film flop of all time.

But the film went on to break even through worldwide sales and then made more money with lucrative tie-ins from a video game and theme park attractions at Universal Studios in Hollywood, Japan and Singapore.

Heaven's Gate, a Wild West movie starring Kris Kristofferson, was one of the most critically derided bombs in Hollywood history, costing US$44 million to make but taking only US$3.4 million when it was released in 1980.

Watch the trailer for John Carter:

- Daily Mail

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