After 'Lone Ranger,' Disney may not be willing to take risks

The "Lone Ranger's" stumble also thrusts Gore Verbinski in an odd place. Verbinski hasn't made a live-action film since the third "Pirates of the Caribbean" picture in 2007, and this has dealt a blow to his career. And Depp, after the failure of "Lone Ranger" as well as "Dark Shadows" in 2012, will soon see his popularity tested again with moviegoers. He next stars in "Transcendence," the secretive directorial debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister, and reprises his role as Capt. Jack Sparrow in the fifth "Pirates" film.

"The Lone Ranger" faced high hurdles as a western — a genre that is a tough sell for modern moviegoers. Only eight westerns have cracked the $100-million threshold in the U.S., including "Dances With Wolves," "True Grit" and "Django Unchained," according to Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office division of Such films typically attract a narrower audience than, say, an effects-driven superhero film or animated release.

"A western appeals to a more male-dominated audience," said Dergarabedian.

Disney will still look to foreign territories to help cushion the blow on "Lone Ranger," though global audiences are generally cool to the genre, noted Dergarabedian.

A Disney spokesman previously confirmed that "The Lone Ranger" would be shown in China, but said a release date has not been set.

Shaoyi Sun, professor of film at Shanghai University's School of Film-Television, said in an email that Chinese audiences have supported homegrown westerns such as the 1991 Mandarin-language hit "Swordsman in Double-Flag Town," but the Hollywood genre remains less familiar.

"Many of them know of John Wayne," Sun said, "but it is hard to say there is an enthusiastic audience base in China for westerns."

Times staff writer Daniel Miller contributed to this report.