Mars Needs Moms needs moviegoers

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While putting together this week's movie times for our fair city, I came across this great piece on Disney's latest release Mars Needs Moms from the New York Times.

The good news for the studio? Erm, well, there's not much. I guess you could call it good news that the producer Robert Zemeckis — he of the creepy motion-capture efforts Beowulf, The Polar Express and the like — has had his division closed by the entertainment behemoth. The bad news is much worse than the good news is good, however, as MNM, and its estimated $175 million budget, is shaping up to be one of the great box office flops in cinema history. Through March 14, the film has made roughly $7.7 million in the U.S.

In our local theaters, the film is still going strong with multiple screenings in five theaters, as well as being presented in 2D and 3D. How long that will continue is anyone's guess, now that the film has passed the rumored minimum theater-studio contract run of two weeks.

As for the film's impact on the 3D segment of the industry, overall? Well, the Times says, it's not great.

Movie executives also suggest that Mars Needs Moms can be seen as a consumer referendum on 3D ticket pricing for children. While child tickets to traditional screenings run about $8.75 in large cities like New York and Los Angeles, child admission for 3D screenings is $13. IMAX charges $15.50 for children. Box-office analysts have been increasingly concerned that consumers in general and parents in particular are starting to rebel. “We believe exhibitors’ core strategy of raising ticket prices through 3D premiums” is a “dangerous strategy,” Richard Greenfield, an analyst at the financial services company BTIG, wrote last Tuesday.

It is quite rare for a Disney release to flop as badly as Mars Needs Moms, which is based on an illustrated book by Berkeley Breathed, best known for the comic strip Bloom County. Part of the problem may have been the story. What child wants to see a movie about his mom being taken away from him? But studio executives also pointed to the style of animation as a culprit.

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