Disney’s John Carter, based on the Barsoom series of novels by author Edgar Rice Burroughs, opens March 9th, but Disney is scrambling to save the big budget film from bad buzz…and Disney itself may be to blame.
Last month it was announced that tracking numbers for the movie were mind-numbingly poor – people just weren’t that interested in it. And why should they be? Do you know what the movie is about? People who read this site might, especially since I described what it was based on above…but if you only went by the trailers, would you know? Or would you think it’s just a Conan clone? It wasn’t helped by the fact that “of Mars” was dropped from the title in all marketing material last year, which might have actually clued people in more as to the subject – I know people familiar with the books who didn’t know the movie was based on them. The title doesn’t give any indication what the movie is about, except it is about a guy. But Disney was apparently skittish about associating any movie with the planet Mars, given the massive flop of Mars Needs Moms, as well as previous Mars movies – Disney also had flops in Mission to Mars and Mars Attacks!. Disney’s former marketing president, MT Carney, has taken most of the blame but there were failures at several levels.
Now Disney is scrambling. The new marketing engine is churning under new head Ricky Strauss, and we should start seeing TV spots that focus more on the story than title star Taylor Kitsch jumping through the air. But critics say they are still not hitting on all cylinders, such as the lack of toys based on it as would be typical for a big tentpole fantasy movie.
Is it too little too late? Or can John Carter come back from marketing death on post-opening word of mouth? Presuming it turns out to actually be good, of course…