Walt Disney Pictures is wasting no time on setting the stage for next month’s John Carter adaptation to become the first in a new blockbuster series for the studio. The plan all along has been for the sci-fi flick to kick off a new trilogy – something which co-writer/director Andrew Stanton has previously made no secret of – and now progress on the next installment is already heating up.

Screen Rant‘s own Roth Cornet has learned that Stanton and his John Carter co-writer, Michael Chabon, have not only written outlines for the next two films in the series, but they’ve also actually begun penning a script for the sequel, tentatively known as John Carter: The Gods of Mars (the subtitle comes from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ second Carter novel). But is Disney counting its chickens before they hatch?

According to a new report from Deadline, the answer to that question right now is decidedly “yes” – with the site’s story on the subject bearing the disconcerting sub-headline that “[‘John Carter’] could be [the] biggest writeoff of all time.” The 3D project’s official budget is estimated to be around $250 million (with unofficial reports pegging it as even higher), but early word is that the Mouse House could be looking at a loss of well over $100 million on the film.

Those theoretical numbers are based on early box office tracking results for John Carter, which Deadline quotes an anonymous non-Disney studio executive as claiming that “women of all ages have flat out rejected” based on early surveys of the demographic. Kind of ironic then that the film’s original title (John Carter of Mars) was shortened, under the logic that it would lend the movie more appeal to younger female moviegoers – without significantly weakening its appeal to men. But we digress.

Disney is already downplaying the idea that a John Carter sequel (much less a franchise) is merely a pipe dream, and early word of mouth from those who’ve seen the film is actually very positive (most comments state “The movie is a lot of fun”). Seeing how the company’s marketing campaign for John Carter has only begun to really intensify over the past two weeks, awareness and interest in the movie should become all the more heightened from hereon out.

In other words: John Carter may not prove to be the box office disaster that some are anticipating – and on the off-chance that it actually turns out to be a surprise hit (good word-of-mouth would help), Disney wants to have the next installment already in motion. Still, best not hold your breath while waiting to find out whether or not this sequel is going to happen for certain.

John Carter arrives in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D theaters around the U.S. on March 9th, 2012.

Source: Deadline