The movie business isn't for the faint of heart at the best of times and these are not exactly the best of times. With domestic ticket sales down in 2011 to their lowest level in 16 years and DVD revenues continuing to sink, it would be understandable if studio executives wanted to play it safe in 2012. But movies have always been a high-risk/high-reward business, and there are still people willing to roll the dice. A look at this year's riskiest bets...
Based on a series of books by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, Disney's sci-fi epic stars a loincloth-clad Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) as a Confederate captain who finds himself in the middle of a not-so-civil conflict between alien races on Mars. Though John Carter's budget is reported to have gone well north of $200 million, director Andrew Stanton a Pixar veteran making his live-action debut has insisted on keeping details of the film largely under wraps, which could pose a risk given that not many people are familiar with the source material. ''My goal is to hopefully protect the thrill you might get from not knowing everything before you go into a theater,'' Stanton told EW last year. ''It's the only reason to work this hard!'' (March 9)
Men in Black 3
It's been 10 long years since moviegoers have seen the sunglasses-wearing, alien-hunting duo of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, and the latest installment in Sony's hit sci-fi-comedy franchise has been dogged by stories of script rewrites and production delays. But director Barry Sonnenfeld shrugs off reports of difficulties: ''I've worked on some movies that were really contentious and some of them were great. I've also worked on movies that were unbelievably easy to make and they weren't seen by anyone. So, for me, it's much more about the end result than how you get there.'' (May 25)
The Amazing Spider-Man
In an effort to blow the cobwebs off the blockbuster Spider-Man series, Sony is starting from scratch with a young star, Andrew Garfield, who's never carried a big movie, and a filmmaker who's new to the tentpole realm, (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb. ''We're going to give you a completely different approach, another interpretation of the character,'' says producer Matthew Tolmach. ''The movie is either going to give the fans what they want, or not. That's our job.'' (July 3)
The Great Gatsby
Translating a universally beloved literary classic to the big screen is never easy, but in the case of Gatsby, director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) is swinging for the fences with an ambitious adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio as millionaire Jay Gatsby. Did we mention that the drama will be in 3-D? (Dec. 25)