By Gabe Toro | The Playlist April 21, 2013 at 12:01PM
Tom Cruise could be seen as a leading man in a holding pattern right now. The fans still come out for his films, but maybe the base hasn’t grown despite an impressive box office record carried into the 2000’s. Though it depends where you consider that base should come from. “Oblivion,” his latest, banked a solid non-3D $38 million by the end of Sunday. One wonders what that does for the Cruise brand: consider that back in 2001, Cruise guided “Minority Report” to a very similar gross. Given more than a decade of inflation and absolutely zero competition as studios clear the decks for “Iron Man 3” in May, shouldn’t you expect more?
Yes and no. Outside of the 'Mission: Impossible' films, easily Cruise's best performing franchise, "Oblivion" is Cruise's second highest opening after Spielberg's "War of the Worlds," which peeled wide to a whopping $64 million in 2005 (in another era before the recession and rampant movie pirating). Plus internationally, where Cruise is a mega megastar, "Oblivion" opened to $71.9 million, making for a global total of $150 million in its first weekend with Japan and China still yet to open. So "Oblivion" might feel slightly soft domestically, but this is par for the course of late. "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" opened relatively soft with $29 million in the holiday season of 2011, but roared back to a near $700 million gross worldwide ($209 million of that being domestic figures).
The math is always fuzzier when it comes to Tom Cruise films, since he takes a very hefty chunk of the back-end. International numbers will help make for a $300 million worldwide total (at least), but as “Jack Reacher” proved, a heavier foreign reception doesn’t necessarily always excite a studio hoping for a stronger domestic reception.
More intriguing is the ‘B-‘ Cinemascore. Those grades tend to skew against elaborate genre pictures, and “Oblivion” is a film with a nondescript title that requires 5 to 10 minutes of voiceover just to convey the general idea to audiences. Word-of-mouth could be harsh, and if a second weekend is milder for the $120 million-budgeted film, by the time “Iron Man 3” rolls around it could be long gone from theaters. Perhaps Cruise can move forward from this by adopting the approach used by contemporaries like Denzel Washington and find more projects where he shares screentime with notable names: you could feel Universal straining when they made elderly Morgan Freeman almost equal to Cruise in the film’s marketing campaign.
Boasting a mighty strong hold is “42,” which is looking like a solid word-of-mouth hit. $100 million seems unlikely, but with the budget in the high $30 millions, the fact that it will cross $60 million by mid-week and continue to play into the young baseball season, is a massive boon for Legendary Pictures, who last provided distributor Warner Bros. with the money pit that was “Jack The Giant Slayer.” Also staying alive was “The Croods,” dominating an under-served kiddie marketplace this year. The numbers have been steady for this DreamWorks ‘toon, enough to bankroll a sequel. So get ready to struggle to remember plot points from this caveman comedy in 2017 when you try to make sense of “The Croods 2.”
The theaters are thinning out as everyone prepares for the boys of summer, which means you see stuff like “Scary Movie 5” continue to hover in the top five. The audience rejected this entry in the lucrative series like Dikembe Mutombo trying to earn post-retirement endorsement money, and it’s left the Weinsteins with a once-viable brand name that looks like it's run its course. Of course, this series has never been pricey, and the latest installment ran them less than $20 million. There just might be a market for more 'Scary Movie' offshoots on DVD, where horror spoofs with $5.00 budgets thrive. If there is a dollar to be made, The Weinstein Company will make it.
“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” spends its fourth week in the top five, but this thing just didn’t quite play to the core domestically. The first film did $150 million in America and $300 million worldwide – the new installment will easily eclipse the latter number, but won’t even flirt with the former. A sequel has been “announced,” but this franchise just feels troubled. At least at home where you'd think "a real American hero" would connect. The first film had a massive $175 million cost and a post-production battle ensued between director Stephen Sommers and the studio over the final edit. And this follow-up, definitely not directed by Sommers, endured two separate ad campaigns, one accommodating a drastic last-minute postponement from summer 2012 to spring 2013, supposedly to allow for reshoots. This newer film reportedly only cost $135 million, but given those headaches, is this franchise even worth the hassle?
Though it performed strongly in limited release, a nationwide expansion for “The Place Beyond the Pines” didn’t win the film that many new fans. In 1,542 theaters, the film only boasted the fourth-best per-screen average in the top ten, with a slight increase over its last strong arthouse weekend. Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are names, but they aren’t quite bankable enough to get people in the theater for an austere two-and-a-half hour crime drama without Oscar buzz. And that name… yeah, we get what you were doing, Derek Cianfrance, but you named your film after its setting. That wouldn’t fly if it were Washington D.C., never mind Schenectady. For film fans, the victory is that this film got to play to wide swaths of audience, not that they accepted or rejected it. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t teach it to want to kiss Ryan Gosling’s teardrop tattoo.
“Olympus Has Fallen” is out of the top five, but, somehow, it’s making a run at $100 million. Good for you, Gerard Butler! Written off as a quickie made to beat “White House Down” to theaters, it’s now looking like a big boy financially, scoring a nice return on a mid-budget investment – the guess is “White House Down” pays for two and a half “Olympus Has Fallen”s. “Evil Dead” and “Jurassic Park 3D” are still bouncing around; the former completely collapsed after that opening weekend, and the latter just didn’t generate the nostalgic fan reaction they anticipated. And after seven weeks, take a bow, “Oz the Great and Powerful.” You almost made it to summer. Worth noting: early numbers suggest Lionsgate indie “Filly Brown” will debut just outside of the top ten, but with a stronger per-screen average than any other film in wide release despite debuting at only 188 theaters.
1. Oblivion (Universal) - $38.2 million
2. 42 (Warner Bros.) - $18 million ($54 mil.)
3. The Croods (Fox/DreamWorks) - $9.5 million ($155 mil.)
4. Scary Movie 5 (The Weinstein Company) - $6.3 million ($23 mil.)
5. G.I. Joe: The De-Channing-ing (Paramount) - $5.8 million ($111 mil.)
6. The Place Beyond The Pines (Focus) - $4.6 million ($11 mil.)
7. Olympus Has Fallen (FilmDistrict) - $4.3 million ($89 mil.)
8. Another Sacrilegious Horror Remake (Sony) - $4.1 million (48 mil.)
9. Jurassic Park 3D (Universal) – $3.7 million ($38 mil.)
10. Oz the Great and Powerful (Disney) - $3 million ($224 mil.)