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Johnny Depp's new artificial-intelligence thriller "Transcendence" has arrived in theaters with terrible reviews, bad box-office buzz, and a good deal of expectation that the movie will become Depp's third straight big-budget flop.
It's been nearly three years since a Depp movie made at least $100 million domestically. Since then, he's starred in "The Rum Diary" ($45 million budget; $13 million domestic gross), and, more infamously, "Dark Shadows" ($150 million budget; $80 million domestic gross), and "The Lone Ranger" ($215 million budget; $89 million domestic gross).
In Thursday-night previews, the $100 million "Transcendence" took in less than $1 million. By Sunday, it's projected to hit — maybe — $20 million. Anything under that number, BoxOfficeMojo's Ray Subers tweeted this week, would be "disastrous."
Disastrous for the movie, that is, but not for Depp.
Public relations exec Ronn Torossian, CEO of the New York-based 5W Public Relations, said he doesn't see Depp wanting to, or needing to, rebrand.
"Seemingly critics are much harsher on Johnny Depp than the public — he's been one of the most financially successful actors in America for many years," Torossian said via email. "Depp strikes me as someone very comfortable in his skin who isn't likely to change at all."
Though Depp told Rolling Stone last year that he thought about retirement "every day," the 50-year-old has a slate of movies in the works or in the can — and, no, they don't indicate a man about to change course, nor a star that studios are bailing on.
There's the crime comedy "Mortdecai" that Lionsgate is talking up as "franchisable." There's "Into the Woods," a movie musical that's being positioned as an Oscar contender. There's "Black Mass," a gangland drama (and another potential awards-season vehicle) to star Depp as the notorious Whitey Bulger. And then there are "Through the Looking Glass," a planned sequel to Depp's "Alice in Wonderland," and a potential fifth entry in the billion-dollar "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, "Dead Men Tell No Tales."
"I honestly don't don't think how 'Transcendence' will do will matter at all," Jim Amos, a former studio executive-turned-publisher of Box Office Insider, said of Depp. "He's got a brand people love."
Up until the last decade of his 30-year screen career, when the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies dovetailed with his two Tim Burton-directed family hits, "Alice in Wonderland" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," the Depp brand was not necessarily about delivering mega-blockbusters.
"The 'Pirates' movies are the 'Pirates' movies, and I think we need to temper expectations about what Johnny Depp movies that don't start with 'Pirates' [in their titles] are going to do," Amos said.
If "Transcendence" has anything going for it, it's that expectations have been nothing if not tempered.