Tom Cruise isn't the megastar he used to be – that is, if you believe North America represents the whole world. (More on that below.) Since J.J. Abrams' Mission: Impossible III back in 2006, only one Tom Cruise star vehicle in wide release has opened with more than $25 million at the domestic box office: Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which collected $29.55 million on its second weekend out (and first in wide release) in late December 2011. And that was a sequel. This weekend, Tom Cruise is back on North American screens with the non-sequel sci-fier Oblivion; the initial box office results have surpassed (official) studio expectations and, for that matter, the expectations of most pundits. (Image: Tom Cruise Oblivion.)
According to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo, Oblivion took in $13.3 million on Friday, including $1.1 million from late Thursday and midnight screenings. And that was when much of the United States was busy trying to unravel the media mess surrounding the identity of the suspected Boston terrorists: Was one of them the buffed-up naked guy escorted by police? Or perhaps the missing Indian-American student, whose family photos were splattered on know-nothing websites? And just as importantly, what's the difference between the Republic of Chechnya and the Czech Republic?
Barring another major revelation – however inaccurate or misleading it may turn out to be – that'll keep North Americans glued to their computers or TV sets, Oblivion seems to be on target to reach anywhere between $37-39 million at 3,783 North American locations by Sunday evening. That's not bad at all for a 2D movie that's not a sequel. In fact, that's by far Tom Cruise's best domestic opening since Mission: Impossible III's $47.74 million (approx. $59 million today) in May 2006. Distributor Universal had officially (if more than a tad modestly) been expecting somewhere around $30m.
And let's not forget that Oblivion, unlike Cruise's two previous sci-fiers, Minority Report (2002) and War of the Worlds (2005), is an all-around Tom Cruise Movie. The former two, both late June releases, were Tom Cruise / Steven Spielberg collaborations; Spielberg's name was as much a selling point as Cruise's. For the record, Minority Report debuted with $35.67 million (approx. $49 million today) and War of the Worlds with $64.87 million (approx. $81.5 million today).
Oblivion international box office: Tom Cruise remains a top star outside North America
Although (curiously) not a 3D sci-fi extravaganza, Oblivion is already a solid hit internationally, having scored $77 million after about a week, with particularly strong showings in Russia, the UK, and France. Indeed, Tom Cruise's movies have fared much better internationally than in North America: since 2006, Adam Shankman's Rock of Ages and Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs, co-starring Meryl Streep, have been the only two Cruise movies that failed to reach $100m overseas. Cruise has a supporting role in the former, while the latter's international box office gross, though hardly a blockbuster-like figure ($48.21 million), was more than three times the amount the political drama earned on North American screens.
For the record, the other Tom Cruise movies since 2006 are Christopher McQuarrie's Jack Reacher, with $136.49 million internationally (as per the most up-to-date figures found at Box Office Mojo); James Mangold's Knight and Day, co-starring Cameron Diaz, with $185.5m; Bryan Singer's Valkyrie, featuring Kenneth Branagh, with $117.19m; and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, with an astounding $485.31m.
By Sunday evening, Oblivion should have grossed more than $150m worldwide. Tom Cruise and Oblivion have another weekend for themselves (in the action / adventure area, that is), before Shane Black / Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man 3 takes over the reins of the domestic box office.
Oblivion budget: Not bad for a sci-fier
Oblivion cost a reported $120m (not including prints and advertising), though Deadline.com puts the film's unofficial budget at closer to $160m. Either way, Oblivion could hardly be considered a mega-expensive production – especially for a special-effects-laden sci-fier.
Compare the budget of Tom Cruise's Oblivion to those of the Kristen Stewart / Chris Hemsworth 2D period fantasy Snow White and the Huntsman, which cost a reported $170m; Channing Tatum's recent 3D actioner G.I. Joe: Retaliation's $130m price tag; Sam Raimi / James Franco's 3D fantasy Oz the Great and Powerful's $215m; Andrew Stanton / Taylor Kitsch's 3D sci-fier John Carter's $250m; and Sam Mendes / Daniel Craig's 2D James Bond thriller Skyfall's $200m. Or even Quentin Tarantino / Leonardo DiCaprio's Django Unchained's $100m.
Tom Cruise leads Oblivion cast
Directed by Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy), besides Tom Cruise, Oblivion features Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), To the Wonder's Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Oscar winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter), and Zoe Bell. Based on a graphic novel by director Kosinski and Arvid Nelson, the Oblivion screenplay is credited to Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek (the TV series Last Resort; the thriller November Man, currently in pre-production), and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire).
Tom Cruise Oblivion photo: Universal Pictures.