"John Carter," Disney's $250 million sci-fi spectacular, floundered at the domestic box office in its opening weekend, pulling in only $30.6 million, according to studio estimates. Universal's "The Lorax," a $70 million animated picture in its second week of release, beat it by almost $9 million.
Not that anyone expected otherwise.
In fact, the closest thing to a surprise is that "John Carter" performed as well as it did. On Thursday, Disney said it "aspired" to an opening above $30 million, but tracking had it a few million dollars below that.
The audience — what little there was — liked the movie well enough that the survey firm Cinemascore assigned it a "B+" rating.
And "John Carter's" numbers, combined with strong holds for "The Lorax," "Project X and "Act of Valor," were strong enough that the overall box office was up about 6 percent compared to the same weekend in 2011.
None of the three movies that opened in wide release this weekend performed especially well, and the No. 5 movie in America, "Silent House" was so bad it received an "F" Cinemascore. The movie, which Open Road released for LD Entertainment, still managed to gross more than Paramount's "A Thousand Words," an Eddie Murphy movie left over from the DreamWorks days.
"A Thousand Words" got a "B-" Cinemascore, but only $6.4 million at the box office.
As for "John Carter," $30.6 million is a terrible opening for a movie that cost $250 million to make. Factor in the substantial amount Disney spent to market the movie — and then to retool its marketing efforts — and the result is disastrous.
The little bit of good is in "John Carter's" international numbers. The movie grossed $70.6 million outside of North America, for a worldwide opening weekend above $100 million.
"We certainly appreciate the larger economics of the film, but are encouraged by how it has been received by audiences, and we hope to see that generate positive word-of-mouth," Disney's head of distribution, Dave Hollis, told TheWrap Sunday morning.
That positive word-of-mouth is likely responsible in large part for the 25 percent uptick from Friday to Saturday.
"John Carter's" audience was overwhelmingly male and slightly older: 64 percent of the audience was male and 59 percent was 25 and older.
The movie played especially well at IMAX locations. It drew a bit more than $5 million — 16 percent of its total domestic take — at those large-screen theaters, and eight of the top 10 "John Carter" theaters were IMAX.
3D locations accounted for 64 percent of its domestic gross.
The movie is based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs character, a Confederate soldier in the Civil War who finds himself transported to Mars, where he becomes involved in a battle among alien races.
Taylor Kitsch stars in the PG-13 film, which opened at 3,746 locations.
The weekend's other new movies, "Silent House" and "A Thousand Words," opened badly, as well.
"Silent House," starring Elizabeth Olsen, took $7 million — a respectable figure for a movie that cost about $1 million to make. But the R-rated film got an almost unheard-of "F" Cinemascore.
LD Entertainment acquired "Silent House" at the Sundance Film Festival.
The far more expensive "A Thousand Words," a PG-13-rated Eddie Murphy comedy, took sixth place at the domestic box office with only $6.4 million.
The figure is about what Paramount and box-office watchers outside the studio had expected, but is unspectacular for a movie with a budget of $40 million. It appealed primarily to women, who made up 55 percent of the audience. People 25 and older made up 61 percent of the audience.
"A Thousand Words" also shows that Murphy cannot be counted on to open movies. His "Imagine That," also for Paramount, opened to $5.5 million in June 2009 and his "Meet Dave," for Fox, debuted to $5.2 million in July 2008.
The big winner of the weekend — like the big winner last weekend — is "The Lorax."
Universal's adaptation of the Dr. Seuss book, grossed an estimated $39 million in its second week of release. That's down 44 percent from its opening weekend, when it took in an astounding $70.2 million.
"It's a phenomenal result coming off a record-breaking weekend," Nikki Rocco, Universal's head of distribution, told TheWrap Sunday morning. "We are … the quintessential family hit."
"The Lorax," which cost about $70 million to make, has grossed about $122 million domestically and is on track to continue a strong run. The next animated family film is Sony's "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," which debuts April 27.
Next weekend, only one movie will open in wide release, Sony's "21 Jump Street."
The weekend after that, the sole new film in wide release is Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games," which could open to $100 million.