Box Office Top 10 Film News

Box Office: The Mission Impossible Franchise Is Back, But Is Tom Cruise Also Back?

Are you getting a sense of déjà vu? Tom Cruise has had a bit of a dry spell at the box office. The world has been uncomfortably reminded of his association with Scientology. However, all is forgiven and forgotten because he has a new Mission Impossible movie which just overperformed in its opening weekend, causing many to declare that Tom Cruise is back.

That’s the basic narrative I’m seeing thrown around in the aftermath of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation dang near setting a franchise high for an opening weekend at the domestic box office. Vulture and The New Yorker both really want everyone to forgive Cruise for his perceived prior transgressions. Forbes used a bunch of asterisks to explain its conclusions that Cruise hasn’t had a real box office flop in 30 years. Grantland has a delightful oral history mostly about what an amazing person Cruise was throughout the entire creative process which led to his performance as Less Grossman in Tropic Thunder. Seemingly countless sites have trivia games playfully celebrating Cruise’s infamously weird way of running. Absolutely no one, not even Jon Stewart, wants any part of asking Cruise about Going Clear: Scientology & The Prison of Belief, Alex Gibney’s damning documentary which makes Cruise seem like an ego-stroked, manipulated pawn who may or may not be willfully oblivious to the truths of his own religion (e.g., does he know that the church’s worker bees fixing up his bikes and homes are essentially slave labor?).  Back in May, Going Clear looked like the elephant in the room Cruise would have to address:

Instead, he has absolutely sidestepped it and the media has complied.  It has now had no noticeably negative effect on the box office for Rogue Nation.  Honestly, Going Clear shouldn’t really change your ability to appreciate Rogue Nation for what it is: an impeccably well-made, old-fashioned thrill ride.   At this very moment, it sure as heck seems that, as Vanity Fair declared, “Tom Cruise is back!”

But wasn’t that the same basic story back in 2011 when Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol improbably revived the franchise? At that point, we were only 5 or so years removed from Cruise’s creepy, conspiracy theory-baiting courtship of Katie Holmes and public tussles with Matt Lauer and Brooke Shields. The movies he’d made since Mission Impossible 3 either bombed (2007’s Lions for Lambs) or were far more modest-performers compared to his career standards (2008’s Valkyrie, 2010’s Knight and Day, neither of which made $100m in the US/Canada and barely doubled their budgets worldwide). Tropic Thunder (2008) buried him underneath make-up and prosthetics, and was so well-liked it supposedly revived his career. However, it was not really the huge hit we often assume it was when thinking back on it ($110m domestic/$77m int./$188m worldwide on a $92m budget).

Ghost Protocol managed to flip the script, turning Cruise’s unique brand of crazy from a negative (uncomfortable Scientology associations) into a positive (his wholly unadvisable insistence to perform his own stunts). All it took was him climbing up the side of the tallest building in the world in Ghost Protocol, and then very loudly telling us that there was no freakin’ stunt double or CGI to thank – that really was Tom Cruise climbing up a building like a secret agent Spider-Man.

They used CGI to erase the safety harnesses Cruise wore throughout the stunt.

Of course, there is more to Ghost Protocol than just that one sequence in Dubai. It is easily among the best films in the entire franchise, with the box office grosses to show for it, setting franchises highs overseas ($485m) and worldwide ($694m) and ending as the first Cruise move to eclipse $200m domestic since War of the Worlds in 2005. However, so much attention was paid to that one spectacular stunt that the Mission Impossible franchise morphed into a game of tuning back in to see what crazy stunt Cruise would perform next, a preferable alternative to our prior past time of tuning in to see what crazy thing about Scientology Cruise would say next.

That means good things for the Mission Impossible movies. For as long as the now 53-year-old Cruise’s body holds up, we’ll gladly pay to see him be a human crash test dummy tied to the side of a plane or holding his breath underwater for an insanely long time, both of which he performs to amazing results in Rogue Nation. Any other movies he wants to do, though, well, that’s another story:




Dom. Opening

Dom. Gross

Worldwide Gross


Edge of Tomorrow












Jack Reacher






Rock of Ages





He now continually struggles to break $100m in the US/Canada even though from 2000 to 2006 he had 7 straight movies make at least $100m, even Vanilla Sky and Collateral. During that stretch of MI:2, Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, The Last Samurai, Collateral, War of the Worlds and MI:3, his movies averaged a domestic gross of $147m, with a high of $234m (War of the Worlds).  Ever since Ghost Protocol, they’ve averaged just $77m, $90m if you take out Rock of Ages.  That being said, it is at least encouraging that his grosses have been going up from Jack Reacher on, each new movie winning back more and more of an audience even though Edge of Tomorrow‘s big budget poisoned our view of its box office performance.

But I can’t go any further without acknowledging that Japan still has a national holiday called Tom Cruise Day. So, yeah, international audiences still love the guy.  Overseas fans actually pushed Oblivion and Jack Reacher into profitability and Edge of Tomorrow close enough to it that when Cruise recently mentioned he had an idea for a sequel it didn’t seem entirely outside the realm of possibility that he could talk the studio into it. Plus, his diminished domestic star power might simply be the going rate for today’s movie stars, similar to how Denzel Washington’s movies all make between $80m and $120m domestic these days. That’s at least way more than the average new Arnold Schwarzenegger/Adam Sandler/Will Smith/Will Ferrell/Vince Vaughn movie can hope for.

Whenever Tom Cruise does a sci-fi movie now, many immediately flash to Scientology, but, dangit, Edge of Tomorrow is a great movie

At current domestic ticket prices, Cruise classics like Rain Man and The Firm and Jerry Maguire would have made $351m, $310m and $275m respectively. Well, the days of those kinds of movies ruling the box office or even getting made in the first place are long gone. This is the era of the franchise, and the fact that Cruise has kept Mission Impossible going after nearly 20 years is a testament to his fortitude. Ghost Protocol could very well have been a fluke for the franchise, much in the way Live Free or Die Hard was a return to form for Die Hard in 2007 before A Good Day to Die Hard destroyed the franchise’s remaining good will in 2013. Rogue Nation could have similarly messed everything up. Instead, it has seamlessly kept the gravy train moving forward. The Mission Impossible movies now seem to be getting better as they go, and Cruise’s insane stuntwork and knack for picking the right director is a big part of that. However, does Rogue Nation really mean that Tom Cruise is back? Eh. We’ll have to wait to see what he does next to find out.

Right now, there remains a slightly possibility for Jack Reacher and Edge of Tomorrow sequels.  He’s also developing a cold war era spy drama with Domhnall Gleeson, and is said to be circling Disney’s Bob the Musical,about a man who is horrified to find that his life has become a musical after he suffers a head injury; suddenly, he can hear ‘the songs of everyone’s heart.'”  That sounds great, but the one thing we know for sure is that the man knows how to make a dang good Mission Impossible movie.  I look forward to seeing the next one.  I might even go see Rogue Nation again.

This Weekend’s Actual Box Office Top 10 Totals (7/31-8/2)

1) Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Worldwide Debut)

  • Production Budget=$150m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$55.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$65m
  • Worldwide Debut=$120.5m

23% of the opening day crowd came out because it was an action film, 20% were Mission: Impossible fans while 18% bought tickets because they’re Cruise fans.  By end of the weekend, over a third of the fans said they were there to see Tom Cruise.

2) Vacation (Domestic Debut)

  • Production Budget=$30m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$14.6m
  • 5-Day Domestic Gross=$21m

Deadline had the best take on this:

Several insiders and rival distribution executives have their theories in regards to what went wrong with Vacation. One distrib chief thought it was a mistake casting Christina Applegate opposite Helms; the film would have been better served by an actress catering to the under 25 crowd, not to mention Applegate doesn’t have the B.O. power that Jennifer Aniston does (who was key in hooking females to We’re the Millers, Horrible Bosses). Only 12% of the opening day’s audience came out for the cast per Rentrak’s PostTrak. In addition, the trailers sent mixed signals. One rival studio marketing executive said that there wasn’t enough nostalgia factor, not to mention :30 second TV spots failed to set-up and pay-off jokes properly. Largely absent from trailers and TV spots was the Vacation title theme song “Holiday Road” from Lindsey Buckingham; a theme that older fans would have connected to. In addition, Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo make cameos in the film and therefore weren’t part of the larger spotlight in marketing materials. In a final last minute gasp, Warner Bros. dropped a two minute red-band trailer a week before release, drawing only 66K views on the studio’s YouTube page

3) Ant-Man

  • Production Budget=$130m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$12.8m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$20m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$132.3m/$159.5m/$291.8m

Ant-Man has pretty much already eclipsed The Incredible Hulk ($134m domestic/$263m worldwide), and it still hasn’t opened in Italy, Korea, Japan or China. The next Marvel movies for it to pass are Captain America: The First Avenger ($176m domestic/$370m world) and Thor ($181m domestic/$449m world). So, yeah, this is basically a Marvel Phase 1 movie even though it technically signals the end of Phase 2.

4) Minions

  • Production Budget=$77m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$12.3m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$39.1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$287.5m/$567.3m/$854.8m

5) Pixels

  • Production Budget=$88m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$10.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$19.8m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$45.7m/$56.5m/$102.2m

Still hasn’t opened in UK, Australia, Japan and China.

6) Trainwreck

  • Production Budget=$30m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$9.6m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=Less than $1m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$79.6m/Less than $1m/$80.3m

7) Southpaw

  • Production Budget=$30m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$7.6m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$3m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$31.6m/$10m/$41.6m

8) Paper Towns

  • Production Budget=$12m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$4.6m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$6m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$23.8m/$25.7m/$49.5m

The common arguments for why this isn’t performing like Fault In Our Stars are as follows: The John Green book it’s based on has never been as popular as Fault in Our Stars, and it doesn’t have a recognizable star on the level of Shailene Woodley.

9) Inside Out

  • Production Budget=$65m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$4.5m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$17.8m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$329.5m/$272.7m/$602.2m

10) Jurassic World

  • Production Budget=$150m
  • Weekend Gross (Domestic)=$3.9m
  • Weekend Gross (International)=$4.4m
  • Domestic/International/Worldwide=$631.6/$928m/$1.55b

What Left the Top 10?:

  • Mr. Holmes – Current total: $10.3m domestic
  • Terminator: Genisys Current total: $87.6m domestic on a $155m budget

Terminator is looking up at a worldwide gross of $317m right now and preparing for a theatrical run in China at the end of the month. On a probably related note, Paramount still has not vacated the two previously announced release dates for the planned sequels. I wouldn’t expect them to until they see what happens in China.

What’s Up Next?: Fantastic Four, The Gift, Shaun the Sheep, Ricki and The Flash

Sources: Vanity Fair, THR


  1. Tom Cruise will start to tank again when “Top Gun 2” is made and released. Nothing I have heard about it inspires me. The plot sounds like “Stealth” without Jessica Biel in a revealing bikini. Tony Scott is no longer with us and there won’t be DVD extras where he uses the word “rock star” to describe his actors every 2 minutes. I bet there won’t even be unintentional homoerotic volleyball.

    1. Perhaps we can get other unintentionally homoerotic sports sequences in Top Gun 2. Golf, anyone?

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