Hollywood is superstitious, especially when it comes to film titles. Certain words have proven themselves to be death at the box office.
For many years, films with the word ‘Paris’ in it tanked. Exhibitors avoided them. They were doomed to be box office duds. It was if the film had a very large herpes sore on its mouth, no kissing that femme. It was shunned.
It didn’t necessarily make sense or be true. It was what the business thought and what they thought was fact. Now that Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’ broke the jinx maybe we’ll see more Paris named movies. I doubt it, but it is illustrative how quirky the industry is.
Now there is a new buzz kill word in film titles – Mars, as in the planet.
Pixar’s Andrew Stanton, he who made ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Wall-E’, is set to get his life long dream movie out to the public on March 9. It is called ‘John Carter’. It was called ‘John Carter of Mars’, but the distributor nixed the title. Why? Simple. They are the same folks who gave us one of the biggest stinkers in sometime, ‘Mars Needs Moms’. No sense in repeating that mistake, so let’s change the name and get rid of that offensive word. They also remembered Tim Burton’s ‘Mars Attacks!’ was another bomb. It isn’t the film. It’s the title. So much like the old Kremlin which dispensed with names (and people) it did not like, this distributor has done the same.
One result is that the film ‘John Carter’ is now tracking horribly. No one knows what it is. No one is sure they want to see it. It has no name recognition, a must for the attention deficit challenqed movies going public.
If it had retained the original title, at least folks would know it was a sci-fi film. With its abbreviated name it could be anything. It could be an art house film about a mid-western farmer with a penchant for tractor parts. It could be a yak-fest where a middle aged man has a fling with a 20 year old hooker, falls in love, and murders her pimp for insurance money. It could be anything.
The distributor of ‘John Carter’, Disney, is now scrambling around trying to catch some good buzz. It will be interesting to see if they can make it. Otherwise John Carter may not be from Mars, but at the bottom of a $250 million barrel.
How about this, we change the title again to something like ‘From Paris to Mars: The John Carter Story’. Catchy, no? Would you see a film with that title? Probably not. I wouldn’t. I was an exhibitor for years. I know films with Paris in the title never make any money.