Tom Cruise battles to save Earth in 'Oblivion.'
Tom Cruise battles to save Earth in 'Oblivion.'

The spring box office is still treading water as everyone waits for the launch of the summer season in two weeks, when Disney's "Iron Man 3" is expected to surpass any opening this year so far. For now we have to settle for the better-than-expected opening of a film from veteran star Tom Cruise, as "Oblivion" scored $38 million.

Friday's night's riveting TV coverage of the capture of the Boston Marathon suspect took a toll on that day's numbers, but even so, the total weekend likely would have fallen short of recent comparisons. Coming in at around $98 million for the top 10, this was down from last weekend's $105 million and 2012's $106, continuing a month-long trend that increasingly suggests attendance will be down for the full year.

1. Oblivion (Universal) NEW - Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire grade: B-; Metacritic score: 55

$38,200,000 in 3,783 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $10,085; Cumulative: $38,200,000

When "Jack Reacher" opened to $15 million pre-Christmas last year (on its way to an $80 million domestic haul), it showed something of a comeback for Tom Cruise after the flop of the non-action musical "Rock of Ages." What doubts remained about his viability as a draw 30 years after his initial hit "Risky Business" have been laid to rest with this strong opening -- his best since "Mission Impossible 3" (2006). ("Ghost Protocol" had a two-tiered release, initially only in IMAX, otherwise it almost certainly would have been at a similar level).

Coming on top of its international dates last week -- through this weekend, it has already grossed an additional $110 million -- and coming with a non-branded title, this is a significant comeback for Cruise. That it comes for a film with mixed reviews and, based on the mediocre Cinemascore, only an average audience response, is particularly significant.

With a $120 million production cost (double "Jack Reacher"' thriftier expense) these figures overall were needed, and following fillms from many other major action stars that have flopped this year, it elevates Cruise even more as a viable A-list global player.

Curiously, this second film for director (and co-writer and producer) Joseph Kosinski is actually only his second-best opening. His earlier "Tron: Legacy," benefiting from December playtime and 3-D surcharges, reached $44 million for its first weekend on its way to a $400 million worldwide total. That he will in his first two films have two films both over at least $300 million should elevate him to the top ranks of in-demand directors, despite still being relatively unknown to the public.


The best-known of the multiple producers, ex-Fox exec Peter Chernin, is also heavily into TV these days. Previous films from Chernin Entertainment -- "Parental Guidance" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" -- suggest that he hasn't lost his touch.

What comes next: With Michael Bay's action comedy "Pain & Gain" next week and "Iron Man 3" right after, this has a short window to dominate the market, unlike the positioning Cruise enjoyed for his "Mission" films and other past smashes over the years. But it still looks set to pass the $100 million mark domestically, and combined with the bigger foreign numbers should leave its backers happy.

2. 42 (Warner Bros.) Week 2 - Last weekend: #1

$18,025,000 (-34%) in 3,250 theaters (+247); PSA: $5,446; Cumulative: $54,057,000

A good hold for the second week of this biopic, although perhaps a bigger drop than its initial word of mouth grade (A+ from Cinemascore) suggested. "The Help" had a similar grade, and starting from a slightly lower opening weekend gross fell only 23% its second weekend. Still, this film is still performing far above expectations, and this remains a decent showing.

What comes next: This looks likely now to end up somewhere near or above $100 million, which for the cost of the film will make it a success, tricky these days for a stand-alone non-franchise/genre film aimed at adults for this time of year.

3. The Croods (20th Century-Fox) Week 5 - Last weekend: #3

$9,500,000 (-28%) in 3,245 theaters (-245); PSA: $2,766; Cumulative: $154,898,000

Staying strong (and holding its third place position), this DreamWorks animated feature is heading towards $200 million and more in the U.S., while its international take is already substantially above that.

What comes next: This actually has a shot at outgrossing "Oz: The Great and Powerful" in worldwide totals, which would make it the biggest release for the first third of 2013.

4. Scary Movie 5 (Weinstein) Week 2 - Last weekend: #2

Place Beyond the Pines, Cooper

$6,296,000 (-56%) in 3,402 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $1,851; Cumulative: $22,944,000

An expected second weekend drop for this Dimension division comedy that is falling far short of past films in the series.

What comes next: This will end up grossing less for its full domestic run -- by far -- than #4 in the series did its first weekend.

5. G.I. Joe: Retribution (Paramount) Week 3 - Last weekend: #4

$5,775,000 (-47%) in 3,175 theaters (-360); PSA: $1,819; Cumulative: $111,211,000

It now appears that the domestic gross will end up close to the film's $130 million cost -- another reason why international is so vital to Hollywood. The worldwide total looks likely to be somewhere in the mid-$300 million range, an improvement on the first series entry, despite the disappointing domestic take.

What comes next: Paramount will be tempted to go for a third go-round aimed at foreign markets.

6. The Place Beyond the Pines (Focus) Week 4 - Last weekend: #10

$4,746,000  (+23%) in 1,542 theaters (+1,028); PSA: $3,077; Cumulative: $11,448,000