The fastest theater-to-home-video window in my memory was Cool As Ice, the Vanilla Ice masterpiece (and perennial nominee for the Criterion Collection), that appeared at my video store about four weeks after it hit the theater.
Expected to be one of the biggest money losers ever, John Carter has been solicited for Blu-ray 3D a mere three weeks after its theatrical debut, although the exact release date hasn’t been pinned down, so it’s not quite in Cool As Ice territory just yet.
Still, though, why is a movie, which has been declared by most who’ve seen it as pretty good, expected to lose $200 million for Disney? It probably boils down to a few simple factors:
1: No One Knows What John Carter is
While a subset of nerdom still reads and appreciates the books, the other 98% of the general public doesn’t even know that Tarzan was a book before it was a movie, let alone that that author wrote other things, and the baseline concept is much more timeworn than say, Jules Verne to boot.
2: We’ve Seen It All Before
“Avatar: Red Edition” is a common description of the film, and that same subset of nerds that remember it has generated some of the most successful filmmakers of the last 50 years (John Carter director Andrew Stanton included). George Lucas, James Cameron, Spielberg, and all the rest have been mining this source well for decades, and it’s pretty much dry. So even though this is the long-forgotten granddaddy of so many of our favorite sci-fi and fantasy romps, it looks like a rip-off.
3: Someone Got Greedy
A major problem at all movie studios right now is that a lot of the people making the decisions have never spent a day on a movie set, and all they know is what business school taught them. A John Carter movie made on a sensible budget of, say, $75 million probably could have been a moderate success theatrically, but everything about John Carter screams that someone saw Avatar‘s billions and screamed “me too,” just like three decades ago when Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a failure for Paramount when they said “me too” to Star Wars. Somehow I doubt that like Star Trek, they’ll have the guts to try again, however.
Unlike the other cinematic epic bombs, John Carter is probably going to be treated very unfairly by history. You can show that you’re willing to give it the good old college try by pre-ordering, though. Because, really, despite all it seemingly has going against it, the film is very well worth a watch. Still not sure you’ll like it? You can get a free ticket to the last few showings of the movie by inputting two Disney Movie Rewards codes from select titles now.