Further evidence of the disconnect between Hollywood and audiences arrived over the weekend in the form of John Carter. This muddled, noisy, confusing slice of action cost more than $300m to make (according to industry rumour) and will have cost Disney several tens of millions more to market. With those kinds of numbers the studio had a fight on its hands to recoup its investment even before the movie came out. The limp $31m (£20m) estimated opening weekend has given Disney an even higher mountain to climb.
These days it makes little sense to look at the North American box-office result in isolation. Hollywood has learned over the years that the real treasure trove lies beyond its borders, and received wisdom has it that approximately two-thirds of a blockbuster's worldwide cinema ticket sales comes from outside the continent. So it seems statistically apposite that John Carter mustered $71m from 51 international territories over the weekend, led by Russia on $17.5m – more than half the US gross.
This will offer scant consolation to the number crunchers in Burbank because the movie has now opened in most of the major territories and all the other biggies, such as the UK and Germany, could only manage around $3m each. Those numbers will only go one way in the coming weeks. John Carter is yet to open in China, one of the emergent economies that has proved so lucrative in the past few years (Paramount's Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is about to cross $100m there), so let's see what happens.
John Carter, of course, is only at the beginning of its distribution journey – there's still TV, DVD, on-demand and digital to go – but this is a worrying start that makes all those bold red billboards towering over Los Angeles and other US markets now seem redundant.
It wasn't a great weekend for new releases, paving the way for Universal's Dr Seuss' The Lorax to consolidate its No 1 status. Sadly, Eddie Murphy is clearly no longer the force he once was and Paramount's A Thousand Words arrived in sixth place on a paltry $6.4m. Open Road, a new independent distributor that enjoyed success recently with Liam Neeson thriller The Grey, released the Sundance 2011 horror pic The Silent House in fourth place on a smidgeon over $7m. It may not be a huge number on the face of it but Elisabeth Olsen of Martha Marcy May Marlene fame isn't a household name – yet – and this is exactly the type of movie that will play well on ancillary platforms such as TV, DVD and digital.
North American top 10, 9-11 March 2012
1. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, $39.1m. Total: $121.9m
2. John Carter, $30.6m
3. Project X, $11.6 m. Total: $40.1m
4. The Silent House, $7.01m
5. Act of Valor, $7 m. Total: $56.1m
6. A Thousand Words, $6.4m
7. Safe House, $5 m. Total: $115.8m
8. The Vow, $4m. Total: $117.6m
9. This Means War, $3.8m. Total: $46.9m
10. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, $3.7m. Total: $90.7m