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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

weekend box office: how to ‘fail’ in Hollywood, ‘MI3’ style

Only in America could a three-day paycheck totaling $48 million be considered a disappointment, but there we are. Mission: Impossible III failed to meet “expectations” at the box office during its opening weekend — it took in $10 million less than Mission: Impossible 2 did over its first weekend, and failed to rake in as much cash as Tom Cruise’s last outing, War of the Worlds, when it opened.

And so of course now the handwringing and excuse making begins. Brandon Gray of Box Office Mojo, quoted in the Los Angeles Daily News, says:

Everybody says the debut was low and everyone is right. Beyond the hype around Tom Cruise’s antics, which I think most people don’t care about, is that people didn’t care enough about Ethan Hunt’s antics. They didn’t build a compelling character, not like James Bond or Jack Ryan or Jason Bourne.

Or are we all just tired of Tom, as People magazine wonders?

Hollywood tongues are wagging over the weekend’s less-than-expected box-office tally for Mission: Impossible III – and asking if Tom Cruise’s image may be to blame….

Traditionally tight-lipped about his private life, Cruise suddenly shifted gears last year and starting posing for paparazzi while kissing his then-girlfriend Katie Holmes. Other public displays included jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s couch while professing his love for Holmes and also spouting his Scientology beliefs on the Today show.

Or was the marketing of the flick so wildly out of control that we were sick of everything MI3 before the movie even opened, as Erik Davis at Cinematical moans?

Why, when the town is literally plastered in MI:3 advertisements (Yes, there is a banner hanging across the entire length of Madison Square Garden), do they insist on bombarding us with MORE promotional nonsense? Honestly, I don’t want to see the movie anymore. I’m sour. That’s right, I’m so sick of seeing Tom Cruise and hearing about the super-human moron that I just can’t shell out the money to sit and watch his ass for another two and a half hours.

Or perhaps it’s as The New York Times inadvertently predicted, in an otherwise clueless article about how the rising price of gasoline is not really impacting the economy overall or consumers’ individual wallets:

The difference in spending on gasoline from 2004 to 2006… is an extra $10.62 a week, about the cost of going to a movie.

There you go: Hollywood execs can blame Exxon and Mobil for the “disappointing” performance of their newest “flopbuster,” and keep telling themselves they’re not doing anything wrong.

[box office results via Yahoo! Movies]



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  • Amazing. I don’t get Hollywood at all. And I’m sure they’ll blame it on piracy. What kind of shitty business model are you running when you can complain about not making enough money in a year when you’ve had record-breaking profits (not this year, but a year or two ago they did that), and when every movie you make has to take in more money than the previous movie you put out, or it’s a gigantic failure? I mean, holy fuck, if your movie can bring in $48 million its opening weekend and be considered a flop, then you have the worst business model ever.

  • MaryAnn Johanson

    I don’t understand the Hollywood model either. Why must every year make more money than the year before? Isn’t there any room at all in the business model for simple fluctuations in the numbers? It’s not like Hollywood has been hugely down this year — it’s just a dip.

    The continuing rise in ticket prices cannot be helping, though — why should we keep paying more and more for movies when they don’t get any better?

  • This was to be predicted. All of the PR Cruise did ahead of time merely encouraged people to pontificate that the money made by the movie would be a referendum on how people viewed Cruise now. Sure enough, that’s what they talked about on Monday.

    I dunno. I think there are many factors at work here, several of which you mentioned MaryAnn. I read that the audience typically skewed a bit higher, in the 25+ crowd. Where were all the teens? Maybe the long gap since the second movie reduced the buzz. Maybe a 43-year-old Cruise is not the teen heartthrob he once was. Maybe we are O.D.ing on action movies. Hey, maybe it was as simple as the fact that this movie got mixed reviews!

    $48 million is a problem, however, considering how much the movie cost to make. If the rule of thumb is a movie typically makes three times the opening weekend’s gross, you would look for around a $150 million total take in the U.S. market. There’s your budget back. The world market then gets your profits, as does the DVD sales, but it’s not a home run either. Nothing to brag about.

    As for why Hollywood must make more money each year, the answer is simply corporate economics. Movies are made by mega corps, and those mega corps have quarterly numbers to produce or else the stock falls. Movies are just a product to sell in the marketplace, and our butts in the seat are their way to get big end of year bonuses to spend on the slopes of Aspen.

  • Rising gas prices are a good thing. Even better though, is the perception that rising gas prices will actually hurt peoples’ wallet. The more people think they can’t afford gas, the more likely they are to find efficient alternative means of transportation. I’d just assume people didn’t think of it as two burgers or a movie ticket and instead thought of it as an extra $520 a year.

  • Tim Nickel

    Lots of good reasons mentioned so far for MI3’s ‘poor’ box office showing, but an obvious one has been missed. Cruise’s performance in “War of the Worlds” was flat and stereotyped; his hype has outpaced his acting chops and it’s starting to show at the box office.
    -Tim Nickel

  • MaryAnn Johanson

    That could be true, Tim. I thought Cruise was actually pretty good in WOTW, and I do think that MI3 is pretty good, too — infinitely better than #2 and maybe even better than #1.

    I think *Collateral* proves that Cruise has some real talent and is capable of moving beyond what he has limited himself to lately. Maybe he needs to go work on a movie that cost $2 million instead of $200 million, where everyone works for scale and there’re no personal trainers or bodyguards… you know, remind himself that it’s about craft… or at least that that’s all that may be left to him if his audience is finally seeing through all the movie star bullshit.

    Or maybe he never cared about the craft at all, and was only ever in it for the movie star bullshit. In that case, he’s doomed to become a really sad and pathetic Norma Desmond type.

    But that could be fun for us, too. :->

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