Disney’s Rich Ross, First Gay Studio Head, Resigns After John Carter Bombs

Rich Ross, the openly gay chairman of Walt Disney Studios, announced he is resigning from his post on Saturday, just weeks after the sci-fi film John Carter bombed in theaters nationwide. In an email, Ross (above, with Joe Jonas) explained, ”I no longer believe that the chairman role is the right professional fit for me.”

Read his resignation letter below:

For the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to work with incredibly talented people on behalf of the world’s best loved brand. During that time, we’ve told some amazing stories around the world, created successful TV programming, movies and franchises that generated new opportunities for the company in the process.

I’ve always said our success is created and driven by our people—whom I consider to be the absolute best in the business. But, the best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities. It’s one of the leadership lessons I’ve learned during my career, and it’s something I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to as I look at the challenges and opportunities ahead.

I believe in this extraordinary Walt Disney Studios team, and I believe in our strong slate of films and our ability to make and market them better than anyone else. But, I no longer believe the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me. For that reason, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective today.

It has been my honor to work with such incredible teams — at Disney Channels Worldwide and The Walt Disney Studios and the many other Disney businesses I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with. I know I leave the Studios in good hands and, even on separate paths, I am confident we are all destined for continued success.

Ross, 50, became the first openly gay head of a major Hollywood studio when he was appointed chairman three years ago, after Dick Cook—who actually greenlit Carter—was axed in 2009.

AltFilmGuide reports:

Budgeted at a reported $250 million—plus another $100 million or whereabouts in marketing expenses —John Carter has brought in $269 million worldwide ($200 million internationally), of which Disney will keep 40-50%, or somewhere around $120-$135 million. The studio will reportedly post a loss this quarter, ranging from $80 to $120 million.

Directed by Andrew Stanton, John Carter stars Battleship‘s Taylor Kitsch in the title role. The film is based on a series of stories written by Tarzan‘s Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Though The Hollywood Reporter hints that Ross’ background in television (he championed High School Musical and Hannah Montana) made it hard for him to gain traction in the studio’s film division, Disney CEO Bob Iger said Ross’ “creative instincts, business acumen and personal integrity have driven results in key businesses for Disney.”

Photos: Disney Enterprises

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  • brixnation

    Resigns? More like fired. Get your news right, Queerty.

  • MEJ

    Was John Carter as bad as all that, or was the story just not popular enough to warrant that kind of budget?

  • Ogre Magi

    It was actually a pretty good movie, who ever came up with the add campaign is the real villian!

  • MikeE

    @MEJ: I thoroughly enjoyed the film.
    Disney’s problem was that they very very badly planned their advertising campaign for the film.

    I am certain this film will become a huge hit when it comes out on DVD next month. It was well-written, the acting was more than adequate, the special effects were beautiful, etc… it worked, it was fun.

    It really doesn’t come across as a “disney film” at all. I was actually surprised while watching it and thought “really? this is a Disney film?”.

  • Red Assault

    Movie effects were great. Story was ok. Acting was dreadful.

    More importantly, the marketing was such a colossal mess that nobody had any idea what it was about. It looked like a children’s gladiator movie.

  • Red Meat

    If it was him who made the call on marketing than he did the right thing by resigning.

  • Jay

    This guy clearly got fired.

    I did not see John Carter since I had no desire to see it or pay to see it in a theater; but yeah the marketing was a total mess.

  • LittIe,Kiwi

    what’s unfair is that John Carter was given the greenlight before Ross came on board….boourns.

  • realgay

    Is there such a thing as a gay man with fortitude? It seems gay men fold whenever the pressure is on. I would like to root for these guys yet whenever I do they quickly disappear.

  • QJ201

    I’m sure he was paid enough to never have to work again a day in his life.

  • planeturanus

    100 bucks Ross fucked Joe

  • Kayo

    @MEJ: This was a great movie, the story was very interesting and original. I suppose marketing is to blame, because it’s a very well made movie. It’s not your typical action stupid arse movie, with a relatively unknown actor, I guess that’s why people didn’t flock like sheep to see the movie.

  • JKB

    @Ogre Magi: @Kayo: Yes, I really enjoyed this movie too. True, I only went to see it because John Carter is hot, but the movie was well worth it.

  • MEJ

    Great…Everyone’s comments here makes me want to see it now. Guess I’ll wait for the DVD.

    And I guess the points about the marketing is spot on, because I only saw one commercial for this, and that left me wondering what the hell it was about, but not curious enough to see it.

  • Jay

    First gay studio head? Not even close. John Goldwyn, Donald DeLine, and the list goes ever on. Catchy headline, but unresearched headline. Not to even mention Geffen.

  • Dan Avery

    @Jay: While John Goldwyn was a studio head at Paramount, it appears he was married to Colleen Camp at the time. (They didn’t divorce until 2001.) David Geffen was a co-owner of Dreamworks SKG, but it doesn’t look like he was technically a studio head. Ross has been widely credited as the first openly gay head of a major studio in the mainstream press. If I reported erroneously, I apologize.

  • Chadboy

    Why is it when someone has a big title they resign, but someone lower on the totem pole is fired? Rich Ross was fired. If he didn’t agree to resign he would have been fired.

  • Abel

    JOHN CARTER was a good movie. I took a number of kids to see it, and they, as well as I, really enjoyed it. I do think it was marketed wrong. Someday, like CLEOPATRA, it will have made back its money and more. It will be interesting to see how well it does on video.

  • Interesting

    a lot of this wasn’t just marketing, but also industrial perception and fan boy buzz factor online

    Yes marketing can change that, but its hard to do that once the fan boys get their claw out

    also its hard to do when the industrial rags are all ragging on a movie

    take water world- if one were to read about it before hand it was the worst movie ever, and yet, it really wans’t that bad. it was okay. not great, but certainly one could have seen worse

    perception kills

  • Bob

    NO ONE wanted to see the movie, after seeing the advertising.
    Goes to show that Gays are as suseptible as straights to “the Peter Principle”

  • TheBippi

    Actually, the real culprit to blame for the haphazard marketing is Disney’s newish national ad agency business which went to Carat & Publicis (formerly with Starcom). I have been working in the entertainment biz behind the scenes for many of the major studios ad business with their agencies and after the switch from Starcom it seems the ball has been dropped. Disney (and the execs in charge of their marketing with the contracts of their named agency) made a poor decision in reviewing it’s Named Agency in 2011. John Carter is an example of the mess that happened when it changed hands over to new blood who knew nothing about the business nor had the acumen to handle it. John Carter was previously titled John Carter of Mars, then JCOM and in the end as John Carter. I have a feeling had the kept the original name it wouldn’t have pissed off the true fans and who knows what else. But this is only my speculation having come from behind the scenes of the biz.

  • Gus

    The problem with ‘John Carter’ is it seemed derivative when the book was the original. Every movie of this genre has stolen from the book and made the story line seem old fashioned.

  • MikeE

    @Gus: Had the suits at Disney had one collective neuron, they would have USED that simple fact to their advantage in the advertising of John Carter of Mars.

    The film is based on the books that started it all.

    THIS is where all modern sci-fi originated.

    I thoroughly enjoyed it. The acting was far better than in many other films of the same genre.

    And considering every other sci-fi film contains some of the DNA of JCoM, meaning “we’ve already basically seen it all, the film was still surprisingly fresh.

  • Mark


    MT Carney left Disney months ago.

    Ross was a terrible leader. According to Deadline, he didn’t understand the movie business. He can from Disney TV. Deadline claims that Ross was into the celebrity scene and did not understand how to lead and manage a studio.

    “John Carter” may have been greenlit by a prior regime but the marketing for the movie was terrible. That was apparent from the first commercials that were rolled out nearly a year before the film was released. Instead of refocusing marketing efforts, the studio continued on its doomed path.

    The movie itself is a decent popcorn flick. Where $200 million went, however, doesn’t show up on the screen.

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