‘John Carter-sized flop’ is a phrase that’s bandied about a lot these days. I regularly use it myself, to describe indifferent meals at restaurants. Although the term might be a bit unfair – we can talk about how Disney mis-marketed John Carter until the day breaks – it has come to stand for a big budget, high-profile film by a major studio that foundered at the American box office. Now we might be able to replace that pejorative with a new title: The Lone Ranger.
The Lone Ranger opened to indifferent reviews – everything from ‘absolute dreck’ to ‘not as bad as it looks’ – and murmurs of discomfort over Johnny Depp playing a Native American speaking pidgeon-English and wearing a bird on his head. Why would anyone think that that’s offensive?
Anyways, it comes as no surprise, therefore, that many studio analysts are now predicting that the tent-pole film could stand to lose Disney $150 million.
The break-down of that prediction looks like this: production for The Lone Ranger cost $250 million (I understand most of it went to Johnny Depp’s bird-hat). The marketing alone cost $175 million. As it stands now – unless something changes – the film will gross $275 million worldwide. You do the math.
The Lone Ranger opened much lower than expected – $48.9 million as opposed to the predicted $60 million, according to THR – and has been trounced by the pudgy yellow minions from Despicable Me 2. Some analysts are even predicting upwards of a $190 million loss. Yikes.
So what went wrong? Well, first of all, The Lone Ranger had difficulty getting going early in production, which is never a good sign. Then there was the ‘Johnny Depp in “red face” ‘ problem. And finally it came along at a time when films are getting more expensive, and people are going to the movies less. Something, as the saying goes, has got to give.
The Lone Ranger is still less of a disaster for Disney than John Carter, but it’s close. Given that this one was anchored by a major A-list star, I think we can give the edge to the man in the white hat.
It’s highly unlikely that The Lone Ranger will ride again.