What Does "The Dark Knight Rises," "Battleship," "Men in Black III," and "The Avengers" Have in Common with "John Carter?"

The Dark Knight Rises

They all cost over $200M to make. Of the four films, “The Avengers” is the cheapest at $220M. The other three - “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Battleship,” and “Men in Black III” - each reportedly cost $250M.

That’s how much “John Carter” cost, and even after making over $270M worldwide, Disney’s movie studio chief Rich Ross was fired - actually, he had to resign.

I’m not saying the studio heads in charge of those films are in trouble should any of those films fail, but I just notice after reading Entertainment Weekly’s summer movie preview that $250M sounds almost like something the studios hand out on a regular basis nowadays for a tentpole.

The first movie on that list that I can question is “Battleship.” Universal put $250M behind an adaptation of a board game from Hasbro. A board game. Yes, it’s a popular and fun board game, but still. This makes Disney’s $250M gamble on “John Carter” behind a first time director of live-action films (Andrew Stanton) and an actor with unproven box office (Taylor Kitsch) seem … rational. Oh yeah, “Battleship” also stars the same actor. Kitsch sure has a good agent.

“Battleship” has already grossed $130M overseas after two weeks. That’s just $4M ahead of “John Carter” in the same amount of time. “John Carter” is in its last legs with $200M in total foreign revenue. “Battleship” better have legs and score huge domestic figures, or it’ll end up being another costly money-loser like “John Carter.” A Universal head will then get fired - I mean resign.

The other questionable movie on that list is Sony’s “Men in Black III.” Yes, Will Smith is a proven draw at the box office. He’s arguably the most bankable star in the planet. Having said that, “Men in Back II” did $60M less than the first film - it made $190M, compared to the first film’s $250M. Moviegoers weren’t exactly asking for thirds. Add to the fact that the film was shot without a finalized script, and Sony has a potential costly dud in their hands.

“The Dark Knight Rises” is a no-brainer. The previous entry “The Dark Knight” grossed $533M, the third highest grossing film of all time in the U.S. At 94% on the Tomatometer, it’s also one of the best reviewed films of 2008 and the best reviewed comic book movie in recent years.

“The Avengers” is another no-brainer. Each of the “Iron Man” films made over $300M, and the other films featuring marvel superheroes - “Thor,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” and “The Incredible Hulk” - did solid business too. With 29 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes so far, it scored a near perfect 96% on the Tomatometer. It’s also tracking to open over $150M.

Of the four $200M summer movies, “Battleship” and “Men in Black III” could end up like “John Carter.” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Avengers” are tracking to be this year’s top performers.

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