Tom Cruise set a personal best of sorts this weekend, as Mission: Impossible – Fallout opened with $61.5 million. That’s, sans inflation, his second-biggest opening weekend ever (behind the $64m Fri-Sun launch of War of the Worlds) and the biggest opening for a Mission: Impossible movie (ahead of the $58m Fri-Sun launch of Mission: Impossible II).
Also, random trivia, this was Cruise’s biggest debut for a film that had a straight-up Fri-Sun debut as opposed to a long holiday weekend opening. The film earned an A from Cinemascore and snagged an okay 2.6x weekend multiplier. Come what may, it played like a Mission: Impossible sequel.
While we can debate to what extent Cruise is still a “butts in the seats” movie star, he is absolutely worth the money when it comes to these Ethan Hunt vehicles. While the franchise may have begun as a “Hey, watch Tom Cruise cosplay an action hero in a movie loosely based on that spy show with the cool masks and the cooler theme song,” it morphed into a kind of old-fashioned star-driven franchise in an era of IP cash-ins.
Like (relatively speaking) Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer, it’s less about the IP and more about a major movie star playing to their most popular onscreen persona.
The appeal of the franchise, inflation, and challenges faced in getting folks to the theaters in this Netflix-and-chill era notwithstanding, has only grown in the last half-decade. It has morphed into a kind of a throwback with practical effects, real locations and gonzo “believe your eyes” stunt work.
Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol was a soft reboot (with a more explicit continuity and an emphasis on crazy stunts over melodrama) that became Cruise’s biggest global grosser ever ($694 million, sans inflation or overseas expansion). Christopher McQuarrie’s Rogue Nation earned almost as much ($683m) In July of 2015 while winning equally rave reviews.
Fallout isn’t just a sixth Mission: Impossible movie, it’s a direct sequel to the last three films (starting with J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III). With McQuarrie becoming the first director to make two of these flicks (Brian DePalma started it in 1996, and John Woo directed Mission: Impossible II in 2000), Fallout also brings back fan favorite Rebecca Ferguson and offers Henry Cavill and Vanessa Kirby as (relatively speaking) foils.
Couple that with what is easily the best trailer for any movie this year, and there was a hope that this film would turbo-charge the franchise as a kind of Skyfall/Fast and Furious breakout smash beyond the franchise’s current boundaries.
That didn’t happen. Even with rave reviews, fan goodwill and buzzy “added value elements,” the film sold slightly fewer tickets than Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation ($55.5 million in 2015/$62m adjusted) and less tickets than Mission: Impossible III ($47m in 2006/$67m adjusted).
Still, the last two sequels were a lot leggier than the first three M:I movies. After two supercharged opening weekends (Mission: Impossible earned $46m in 1996 and M:I 2 earned $57m in 2000, both as part of Wed-Sun Memorial Day weekends, both of which are near $100m adjusted for inflation), the franchise fell into a different pattern. The openings (regarding tickets sold) got smaller, but the legs got longer.
So, yes, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, with all of the good press and everything going for it, opened just a bit better than Jason Bourne ($59 million in 2016) and well below the divisive Spectre ($70m in 2015). For that matter, it opened about as well as Star Trek Beyond ($58m in 2016), an opening that had us handwringing about the franchise’s overall prospects.
The difference is that the last two Mission: Impossible movies were huge overseas, and there is little reason to presume that this will be any different. But in terms of North American interest, there does seem to be a ceiling.
Maybe the online film nerd bubble has been more forgiving of Tom Cruise’s offscreen behavior than the general public. Heck, maybe MoviePass collapsing this weekend caused a whole bunch of folks to see something else or stay at home, to say nothing of the whole “fewer folks go to the movies in 2018 than they did in 2015” thing.
Maybe the Mission: Impossible series has become something of a “fan-driven” series, at least on opening weekend, with general moviegoers catching it when they get a chance over the summer. But, for whatever reason, M:I -Fallout didn’t really “break out” this weekend, at least not yet.
That’s no tragedy, but I was wrong about it going supernova after two much-loved prior installments. If Fallout plays as leggy as Rogue Nation ($195 million from a $55m debut), it’ll nab a $218m domestic total, just above Ghost Protocol ($209m in 2011) and Mission: Impossible II ($215m in 2000).
Legs like TMNT, Spectre, Jason Bourne and Star Trek Beyond will get it to $164m-$181m. The hope is that strong reviews and word-of-mouth will allow it to essentially close out the summer like Rogue Nation (and Ant-Man) did in 2015. Paramount/Viacom Inc. is also hoping that it makes a killing overseas.
Speaking of which, the movie earned $92 million in its overseas debut (19% ahead of Rogue Nation in 40% of the overseas markets) for a strong $153.5m global launch. $12.5m of that came from IMAX auditoriums.
And yes, if you live anywhere near an IMAX theater, this one is worth it. Use your MoviePass (while you still can) on Blindspotting, Sorry to Bother You or Leave No Trace. Mission: Impossible -Fallout is worth the extra money.
The movie is still a big win for a recuperating Paramount. Inflation notwithstanding, this is their biggest opening weekend in nearly four years, just under the $65 million debut of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in August of 2014.
Coming off A Quiet Place and Book Club, this is their third big win for the year. If they can keep it up with Overlord (which looks good) and Bumblebee (which is allegedly testing well), then I might have to stop using Paramount as the defining example of a studio doomed by the new “IP >>>> movie stars” normal. Nothing would make me happier.