‘Mission: Impossible’ Provides a Summer Box Office Dead Reckoning: Sequels Are Making Audiences Wary

Maybe Tom Cruise won’t be playing Ethan Hunt at 80.

“Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” (Paramount) grossed $80 million in five days in the U.S./Canada, with a worldwide total of $235 million. That’s needed money for theaters and stronger than expected Thursday-to-Sunday results elevated the gross from what some thought might be as low as $70 million.

With its A Cinemascore, this seems like a film that might not suffer the falloff experienced this summer by several other multi-hundred million dollar productions. Less clear is whether it can maintain the stellar longer run of “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” in 2018 ($61 million three-day opening, $220 million total domestic, $791 million worldwide).

“Barbie”Warner Bros./screenshot

However, “Fallout” was released in late July with minor August competition. Next weekend, “Dead Reckoning” faces “Barbie” (Warner Bros. Discovery), which is expected to open way over $100 million, and “Oppenheimer,” which will gross less while absorbing almost all of the premium screens currently occupied by Tom Cruise.

BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 25: Langston Uibel, Christian Petzold, Paula Beer, Matthias Brandt and Thomas Schubert attend the Berlinale closing night and Golden Bear Award ceremony red carpet during the 73rd Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin at Berlinale Palast on February 25, 2023 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Tristar Media/WireImage)

Christopher Nolan at the "Oppenheimer" UK premiere

In retrospect, expectations were too high. “Top Gun: Maverick” saved the box office last year; why couldn’t another Cruise sequel do the same in a summer where other films fell far short? However, “Dead Reckoning” is a prescient title: It’s time for exhibitors and studios to accept that adopting a savior complex is not a winning strategy.

Speaking of burdens, there’s a $290 million price tag for the seventh “Mission” (significantly elevated by Covid delays); add in significant marketing costs and it’s at least $400 million.

There’s a good chance that the domestic take for “Dead Reckoning” could equal “Fallout;” with the top market Japan opening this week, the worldwide gross could equal or exceed its predecessor. Even if that’s the case, Cruise will not have the biggest film of the summer or even close to it.

(L-R): Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Lucasfilm's Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”Jonathan Olley / Lucasfilm Ltd.

But let’s stay with the dead reckoning: We know there’s real decline in overall audience and older viewers in particular; we also know that the “Mission” franchise is weaker domestic than foreign, with 30 percent or less of the total. However, it’s time to suggest that the public is becoming wary of films that extend beyond two sequels.

“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (Disney) will end up around $175 million domestic and under $400 million worldwide. That would be fine if the film cost $100 million, not three times that. “Fast X” (Universal) ended up under $150 million domestic, though the worldwide total is much better $700 million. (Production cost $340 million, plus a massive marketing push).

All of this makes the response to next weekend’s “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” both non-franchise titles that promise creativity and originality, important beyond hoped-for strong sales.

It also might explain the performance of “Sound of Freedom” (Angel). The lower-budget orphan project about child trafficking starring far-right hero Jim Caviezel grossed an astounding $27 million, up 37 percent from last weekend. It’s grossed over $85 million to date and might be immune to added competition. It will gross over $100 million; the only question now is how high it might go ($125 million? $150 million?). It’s a complicated story, but attention needs to be paid.

Summer box office remains five percent less than last year. At this point, any improvement on 2022’s $3.4 billion would be minor. This weekend’s estimated $141 million total is up $8 million, or 6 percent, from last year. Without “Sound of Freedom,” it would have fallen 14 percent short.

Next weekend has a shot at $200 million, which would be at least $75 million better than 2022 and leads into the remaining summer where no weekend topped $100 million.

Helping this weekend again are steady performances from holdovers. Apart from the “Sound” surge at #5 “Elemental” (Disney) fell only 13 percent, #6 “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” only 25 percent. The second weekend of “Insidious: The Red Door” at #3 fell 61 percent, “Joyride” (Lionsgate) at #9 off 56 percent. “Indiana Jones” in its third weekend, now #4, dropped another 56 percent.

The cast of THEATER CAMP. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.
“Theater Camp” Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Among specialized openers, Searchlight’s Sundance buy (reported as $8 million) “Theater Camp” opened with a traditional platform run of $270,000, or $45,000 per theater in six New York/Los Angeles theaters. This was higher than expected. Distributors know these days how to elevate these runs with special events (screenings with its writer-directors went ahead this weekend despite the SAG strike, with reported strong turnouts) as well as other promotional activity.

This opening will bring needed attention to the film ahead of its slow rollout over the next two weeks before its anticipated maximum of 600-800 theaters. The expectation is no streaming for at least 60 days.

Christian Petzold’s acclaimed German “Afire” (Janus/Sideshow), top prize winner at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, opened to a $9,800 PTA in three New York/Los Angeles dates that included appearances by the director. This is about what a top subtitled film can expect these days and it’s enough to get elevated play in upcoming weeks.

Documentary “Lakota Nation vs. the United States” (IFC), also with very strong reviews, did a reasonable $8,000 in its New York exclusive debut. Two wider new releases had modest results. “The Miracle Club” (Sony Pictures Classics), with Maggie Smith, Laura Linney, and Kathy Bates, managed $680,000 in 678 theaters. Roadside Attractions’ hockey documentary “Black Ice” could muster only $26,225 in 144. Crunchyroll’s latest anime “Psycho-Pass Providence” managed $211,000 in 419 theaters, while documentary “Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd” (Abramorama) scored $6,000 in one New York date.

The Top 10

1. Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning: Part One (Paramount) – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 81; Est. Budget: $290 million

$56,200,000 in 4,327 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $12,988; Cumulative: $80,004,000

2. Sound of Freedom (Angel) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$27,000,000 (+37%) in 3,265 theaters (+413); PTA: $8,720; Cumulative: $85,499,000

3. Insidious: The Red Door (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$13,000,000 (-61%) in 3,188 (no change) theaters; PTA: $4,078; Cumulative: $58,086,000

4. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #3

$12,000,000 (-56%) in 3,865 (-735) theaters; PTA: $3,105; Cumulative: $145,360,000

5. Elemental (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #4

$8,700,000 (-13%) in 3,235 (-205) theaters; PTA: $2,689; Cumulative: $125,289,000

6. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony) Week 7; Last weekend #5

$6,050,000 (-25%) in 2,577 (-446) theaters; PTA: $2,348; Cumulative: $368,798,000

7. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (Paramount) Week 6; Last weekend #8; also on PVOD

$3,420,000 (-33%) in 2,041 (-434) theaters; PTA: $1,676; Cumulative: $152,765,000

8. No Hard Feelings (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #7

$1,005,000 (-39%) in 2,053 (-633) theaters; PTA: $1,607; Cumulative: $46,590,000

9. Joy Ride (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #6

$2,575,000 (-56%) in 2,820 (no change) theaters; PTA: $913; Cumulative: $10,617,000

10. The Little Mermaid (Disney) Week 8; Last weekend #9

$2,350,000 (-36%) in 1,615 (-465) theaters; PTA: $1,455; Cumulative: $293,917,000

Other specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed.

Theater Camp (Searchlight) NEW – Metacritic: 66; Festivals include: Sundance, South by Southwest 2023

$ in 6 theaters; PTA: $45,000

Afire (Janus/Sideshow) NEW – Metacritic: 86; Festivals include: Berlin, Tribeca 2023

$39,200 in 3 theaters; PTA: $9,800

The Miracle Club (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 54; Festivals include: Tribeca 2023

$679,976 in 678 theaters; PTA: $1,003

Psycho-Pass Providence (Crunchyroll)

$211,000 in 419 theaters; PTA: $504

Lakota Nation vs. United States (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: Tribeca 2022

$8,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $8,000

Have You Got It Yet? (Abramorama)

$6,015 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,015

Black Ice (Roadside Attractions) NEW – Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Toronto 2022

$26,225 in 144 theaters; PTA: $182

Asteroid City (Focus) Week 5; also on PVOD 1,111

$1,160,000 in 713 (-398) theaters; Cumulative: $26,349,000

Past Lives (A24) Week 6 771

$537,882 in 386 (-385) theaters; Cumulative: $9,478,000

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