Digging into "John Carter" and "Green Hornet" Finances

Posted 2:54 PM March 15th, 2012 by Senh Duong
John Carter

Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter put up two articles that dug into the finances of “John Carter” and “The Green Hornet.”

I thought “The Green Hornet” did well enough to warrant a sequel. It had a solid opening ($33.5M) and finished with $99M in the U.S. and $129M overseas for a worldwide total of $228M. For a film based on a TV Show that is only relevant because Bruce Lee played the sidekick, that’s pretty damn good.

That is until you look at the budget. “The Green Hornet,” which was directed by Michel Gondry and starred Seth Rogen and Jay Chou, cost $120M to make. That’s news to me. It looked like it cost, at most, half of that. Where did the money go because I definitely didn’t see it on the screen? According to producer Neal H. Moritz, shooting in Los Angeles was expensive because California doesn’t provide any tax-rebates. He didn’t mention how much could have been saved by shooting in a tax-rebate state though. He did mentioned that $10M was used to do the 3D conversion.

To me, the mistake was greenlighting a second-tier (or maybe it’s third or fourth-tier) superhero movie starring Seth Rogen for $120M. I’m not sure which executive(s) thought it had the potential to do that much in the U.S. The fact that it got relatively close was impressive enough to me. Again, generally speaking, a movie needs to make in theaters (domestically) at least what it cost for the film in order to turn a profit. “The Green Hornet” was about $20M short of that, so we’re not seeing “The Green Hornet 2.”

You can say the same about the Disney executives who greenlit the $250M “John Carter” too, another obscure property. Who thought it could do at least $250M at the box office in the U.S? It’s easy for me to sit here and play Monday morning quarterback, but still ...

After “John Carter” opened to a soft $30.6M domestically and solid $70.6M abroad, THR got an analyst to crunch some numbers to see how much Disney would lose on the movie when it’s all said and done. After estimating its final revenue from box office, home video, and tv sales for both the U.S. and foreign markets ($322M) and subtracting its budget and marketing costs ($375M), the final figure came out to be $53M. That’s not nearly as bad as what others have estimated.

The analyst assumes that the studio’s cut of total worldwide box office is 40%. Home video revenue is 40% of worldwide boxoffice. The TV figure seems like it was pulled out of a hat. Not mentioned is whether or not the marketing cost - prints and advertising - includes home video because that’s always mentioned during a film’s theatrical release.

Everyone’s just crunching numbers. At least this one provided some details into how it was calculated.

Of course, we won’t know the actual figures until Disney releases their financials next year.

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Senh created and operated Rotten Tomatoes out of his apartment at one point before coming together with friends to turn it into a real company. He's back to doing what he loves with Movies With Butter.

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