Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts publicly acknowledged Friday what has been largely ignored by the Hollywood media: "Battleship" is a big, bad, "John Carter"-sized flop.
Speaking at the Sanford Bernstein Strategic decisions conference in New York City, Roberts said that the poor performance of the alien invasion film, which he labelled "an unfortunate, large miss," coupled with the failure of the comedy "The Five Year Engagement," will drag down earnings at NBCUniversal.
In contrast, in the same quarter last year, Universal was basking in the success of "Bridesmaids" and "Fast Five."
"This year you put that together, we’ll have a negative quarter at NBCUniversal, as we’ve sort of told folks," Roberts informed the Wall Street crowd.
Also read: 'John Carter' Loss Expected to Be $200M
In a summer where anything that is not "The Avengers" seems to be stumbling at the box office, "Battleship" has been the biggest turkey. Filmed for more than $200 million with untold millions more spent to market the picture around the world, the board game adaptation has eked out roughly $50 million domestically.
Yet, as Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times noted recently, its abysmal performance has not received the same frenzied coverage that "John Carter" did when it lost Disney some $200 million.
Instead, Universal was able to successfully turn attention away from the size of the box office turkey by touting "Battleship's" more robust foreign grosses of $232.7 million, despite the fact that is roughly what "John Carter" racked up abroad.
"With 'John Carter' out in front, it became the poster child for studio excess, allowing 'Battleship' to stay, at least to some degree, out of the line of fire," Goldstein writes.
He adds: "With 'Battleship,' the fascination with Hollywood flop sweat had already worn off. When I asked a veteran showbiz reporter why his publication had spent so little time covering the demise of 'Battleship,' he joked: 'I guess we all had the same reaction — didn’t we just write that story already?'"
As for Roberts, he said the studio was "hopeful" that "Snow White and the Huntsman" would be a hit with audiences when it opens this weekend.
Still movies seemed to be of less interest to the cable executive than pay television. Although Universal boasts a library that includes such film classics as "Jaws" and "The Sting," that was not the driving force behind Comcast's $13.8 billion merger with the entertainment company last year.
"We want to continue to invest in cable programming," Roberts said. "That’s why we bought the company."