The Beatles made a hit out of the idea that “Money can’t buy me love.” Money also can’t buy customers.
Case in point: Walt Disney Studios’ recent release, “John Carter.” The movie, a Martian adventure based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, cost $250 million to make – and that doesn’t include what Disney paid out for marketing. Yet no matter what the studio spent, nothing could be done to buy an audience. The film fared so poorly that Disney announced less than two weeks after its opening that the company would lose at least $200 million on the project. One month later, Rich (unfortunate first name) Ross resigned his post as chairman of Disney Studios.
The problem isn’t the movie itself. Online reviewers say it’s a good film. The problem is perception, or lack of it. If you weren’t aware of the book, the title means nothing. And the trailers shown prior to release did little to clear up the fog.
Who suffers? Moviegoers, because many of us missed out on what might have been an enjoyable entertainment experience. Investors in Disney take a hit, too. It might also limit opportunities for future films, if studios decide the risk isn’t worth it.
And the guy at the top suffers. Though he likely green-lighted some great flicks in his 15 years at Disney, Mr. Ross was swept away by a single disaster. No matter how much revenue he generated for the studio, money apparently can’t buy a job, either.