MUELLER: How to make a Hollywood flop

Mueller_WEBI liked “Jack the Giant Slayer,” but it appears very few others did. In fact, it seems very few others even saw the movie.

Warner Bros’s fairy tale flop made $27 million dollars this past weekend, which would be respectable … if the movie didn’t cost $195 million to make. To put that in perspective, last year’s mega-flop “John Carter” – which was also released in March – made more.

The good news is that everyone involved with “Jack the Giant Slayer” will probably survive its failure (there’s a chance it could make its money back overseas, but with almost no star recognition to tempt foreign audiences, it’s not looking good).

Star Nicholas Hoult proved he could draw audiences earlier this year with “Warm Bodies,” so he should still have roles in the future. He thankfully avoided Taylor Kitsch’s fate of having three flops (“John Carter,” “Battleship” and “Savages”) in a couple months’ span.

Director Bryan Singer is one of the more quietly respected names in Hollywood, thanks to his resume. “The Usual Suspects” is argued to be one of the best movies of the past 25 years, and he helped spur the comic book movie craze with his first two X-Men films. He’s also signed on to direct the upcoming “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” So yeah, he’ll be fine.

Still, I’m sure everybody involved would like to avoid this happening again, so in case you ever happen to be in charge of a major movie studio in the future, here are two things to remember.

For one, everyone in Hollywood needs to stop trying to follow the lead of one very strange blockbuster hit: “Alice in Wonderland.” Tim Burton’s 2010 fantasy hit somehow became one of the biggest hits of the year, raking in $334 million and becoming the second highest grossing film of the year – right behind “Toy Story 3.”

Here’s the thing: No one really likes “Alice in Wonderland.” Burton’s hardcore fans may marginally enjoy the film, but the general opinion is that the movie is boring and visually ugly.

The adaptation made a lot of money for reasons that can’t really be duplicated (besides the presence of Johnny Depp). The big reason is that “Alice in Wonderland” came out right at the end of the 3-D bubble burst. Burton’s movie was still thriving on the fumes of “Avatar” and the 3-D hype consuming viewers at the time. Everybody wanted to see what the gimmick could do.

As it turns out, not too much. “Alice in Wonderland’s” 3-D was unspectacular and aided only in making the gaudy visuals look darker and less wondrous. Less than a month later, “Clash of the Titans” would come out and almost single-handedly murder 3-D, but by then “Alice in Wonderland” had already made its money.

The movies attempting to duplicate Disney’s success with “Alice in Wonderland” are trying to rob a house that just got robbed a week ago: The owners already got swindled, and now they’re ready with their defenses up.

The other thing to remember in order to avoid a flop is to have confidence in your product – even if it’s a turd.

From the beginning, it seems like Warner Bros. had no idea what to do with “Jack the Giant Slayer.” They switched the title, changing its titular character from a “Giant Killer” to a “Giant Slayer.” The goal may have been to make it seem more family-friendly (which isn’t completely accurate; the film falls awkwardly in the middle of kid fare and “Lord of the Rings”-style adult fantasy), but the end result was to make people confused and disinterested.

The same problem happened with Disney when it ditched the title “John Carter of Mars” for the ridiculously generic “John Carter,” which could have just been a prequel to “Coach Carter” for all viewers knew. Disney was apparently afraid of the reputation of films about red planet-themed movies and their notorious penchant for flopping, but changing the title did the studio no favors.

Give Disney this, at least; the company sold “John Carter” relatively hard. “Jack the Giant Slayer” received minimal ad airtime, and when the film did get commercials out there, they weren’t exactly inspired efforts. It looked like another gritty fairy tale reimagining, though with slightly less impressive effects.

No one had any reason to see “Jack the Giant Slayer,” and as a result, no one did. It’s too bad because it’s not a terrible movie. It’s a fun action adventure that actually feels like an adventure. I enjoyed it quite a bit, though its flaws are many. It deserves a better legacy than being called the biggest bomb of 2013.