The big news this weekend was not that The Lorax held its spot at number one for the second weekend in a row, adding another $39 million to bring its total over $120 million so far, making it the year’s highest grossing film (surpassing The Vow). No, the big news was the box-office failure of John Carter, which managed a measly $30 million, despite a $250 million budget and Taylor Kitch’s future action star status riding on it. My take on the film is similar to Dan’s — I didn’t love it, but neither did I dislike it — but I am befuddled as to where the $250 million went (Eric D. Snider joked that it went into a scene in which they burned $150 million). But the other piece of John Carter’s box-office puzzle is that, worldwide, it debuted with a $100 million opening weekend, including the largest opening take in Russian box-office history.
One hundred million dollars, for a film of that scale, is still not overly impressive, and given the typical multiplier — 2.5 — it’s only likely to break even, at best (and perhaps recoup its marketing budget in DVD). But even if it does break even, it will always be branded a box-office dud even if, in fact, it’s technically not. That happens to more films than you’d imagine: They fail in America, and we Americans are so narcissistic that we believe if it fails here, then obviously it has failed everywhere.
That’s not always the case, as evidenced by these 10 films, all of which were considered box-office failures in America.
Waterworld: Production: $175 million. Domestic: $88 million. Worldwide Gross: $264 million
Prince of Persia: Production: $200 million. Domestic: $90 million. Worldwide: $335 million
Kick Ass: Production: $30 million. Domestic: $48 million. Worldwide: $96 million
The Golden Compass : Production: $170 million. Domestic: $70 million. Worldwide: $372 million.
The Last Samurai: Production: $140 million. Domestic: $111 million. Worldwide: $456 million
Watchmen: Production: $130 million. Domestic: $107 million. Worldwide: $185 million
Australia: Production: $130 million. Domestic: $49 million. Worldwide: $211 million
Immortals: Production: $75 million. Domestic: $83 million. Worldwide: $217 million
The Day After Tomorrow: Production: $125 million. Domestic: $185 million. Worldwide; $544 million
The Adventures of Tintin: Production: $130 million. Domestic: $77 million. Worldwide: $373 million.
There wasn’t much excitement otherwise at the weekend box office. Project X held nicely, and the cheaply produced comedy has now surpassed $40 million. However, Sundance darling Elizabeth Olsen did not do well with her first venture into her first wide release, as the horror flick, Silent House, opened with a measly $7 million. That wasn’t nearly as bad, however, as Eddie Murphy’s A Thousand Words, which opened with $6.3 million. Murphy is not a particularly huge star overseas anymore, so the film — filmed in 2008 — may struggle to break even on its $40 million budget.
Meanwhile, Friends with Kids performed fairly well in limited release. In 375 locations, it put up $2.2 million, good for Roadside Attractions second largest opening ever behind last year’s The Conspirator.