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'MI4': Tom Cruise to Save Domestic Box Office? + Two Steven Spielberg Underperformers

MI4 Ghost Protocol Tom Cruise. Saving box office remains mission impossibleMI4 Ghost Protocol with Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. Even though there's no chance Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol a.k.a. MI4 will reach the (inflation-adjusted) domestic box office heights of the first two entries in the Tom Cruise-led film franchise, the Brad Bird-directed thrill ride is officially the biggest December 2011 release in North America, having surpassed another roller-coaster sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. A couple more positive news bits: MI4 will easily surpass its immediate predecessor, Mission: Impossible III, and it'll in all likelihood become a much bigger international blockbuster than the previous MI movies.

'MI4' is no. 1: Tom Cruise actioner 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' easily tops domestic box office chart

Jan. 3 update: Starring a resurgent Tom Cruise, the Paramount-distributed action thriller Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol a.k.a. MI4 easily topped the North American box office this four-day New Year's 2012 weekend, Dec. 30–Jan. 2.

The first live-action feature directed by Pixar animator Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), MI4 brought in $38.2 million from 3,455 theaters – grossing nearly 50 percent more than the no. 2 movie, fellow year-end actioner Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

The $145 million-budget MI4 is also the most successful December 2011 release at the domestic box office: as of Jan. 2, $141.18 million vs. A Game of Shadows' $136.91 million according to figures found at boxofficemojo.com.

Over the extended Christmas weekend, Dec. 23–26, MI4 collected $44.11 million from 3,448 locations. The previous (debut) weekend, in “limited” release (485 locations), MI4 took in $12.78 million, averaging an outstanding $30,083 per site.

'MI4' maybe/maybe not ahead of 'MI3'

More good news for MI4: after only 18 days out, the IMAX-assisted Tom Cruise actioner has already surpassed the total domestic box office take of its predecessor, J.J. Abrams' Mission: Impossible III. That is, if you choose to ignore higher ticket prices.

Adjusting for inflation, MI3's $134.02 million would be magically turned into approximately $163 million today.

Even so, MI4 is undeniably outperforming MI3 by a wide margin. In fact, by next weekend the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise should surpass the inflation-adjusted box office take of the third one.

Once again, this is proof positive that North American moviegoers are very much tired of sequels and of watching the very same characters over and over again.

'MI4' definitely trailing 'MI' & 'MI2'

The not-so-good news: MI4 is definitely trailing the first two movies in the Mission: Impossible series.

John Woo's Mission: Impossible II grossed $153.38 million (about $225 million today) after 18 days in spring 2000. During that same time frame, Brian De Palma's original Mission: Impossible collected $127.05 million (about $228 million today) in spring 1996.

Admittedly, it was a very different movie world then. Imagine, people still watched movies on VHS tapes – and even then, only months after their theatrical release.

'MI4 - Ghost Protocol' cast

Besides Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, the MI4 - Ghost Protocol cast also includes:

Two-time Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner (as Best Actor for The Hurt Locker, 2009; as Best Supporting Actor for The Town, 2010).

Paula Patton. Michael Nyqvist. Simon Pegg.

Léa Seydoux. Vladimir Nashkov. Anil Kapoor. Samuli Edelmann. Ivan Shvedoff. Josh Holloway.

Pavel Kríz. Miraj Grbic. Michelle Monaghan. Ving Rhames. Ali Olomi.

Two-time Academy Award nominee Tom Wilkinson (as Best Actor for In the Bedroom, 2001; as Best Supporting Actor for Michael Clayton, 2007).

Inspired by Bruce Geller's television series Mission: Impossible (1966–1973), the MI4 screenplay was written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec. Peter Graves, Barbara Bain, Greg Morris, and Martin Landau were four of the TV series' top players.

MI4 trailer, with Tom Cruise as IMF agent Ethan Hunt and Paula Patton. Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol – also featuring Jeremy Renner, Léa Seydoux, and Michael Nyqvist – is one of seven sequels at the top of the 2011 domestic box office. IMF, it should be noted, stands not for International Monetary Fund but for Impossible Missions Force.

'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows': From narrowing to widening gap?

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and Noomi Rapace, Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows collected $26.88 million over the four-day New Year's weekend.

Although trailing MI4, the good news regarding the $125 million-budget A Game of Shadows is that it's narrowing the gap separating it from the original Sherlock Holmes, which came out two years ago.

After its first 10 days out, the sequel was about $58 million (not adjusted for inflation) behind its predecessor. After 18 days, the gap has narrowed to less than $30 million. Sounds impressive?

Well, it's surely not unimpressive, but one must remember that by Day 18, the original Sherlock Holmes was playing near mid-January. The last holiday had been the week before.

Unless A Game of Shadows has developed some truly sturdy legs, there's a good chance that the narrowing gap between the two Sherlock Holmes movies will be transmogrified into a widening one within the next week.

'Chip-Wrecked' way behind 'The Squeakquel'

This past extended New Year's weekend, MI4 and A Game of Shadows were followed by Mike Mitchell's live action/computer animation mix Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, featuring Jason Lee and a bunch of chipmunks with annoying voices. The third Chipmunks movie took in $21.48 million.

After 18 days, the $80 million-budget Chip-Wrecked has collected $97.84 million. Two years ago, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel collected $173.4 million during the same period. Since the picture is quite clear, there's no point in adjusting The Squeakquel's figure for inflation.

Besides Jason Lee, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked features the voices and/or bodies of Justin Long, Anna Faris, David Cross, Amy Poehler, Christina Applegate, and Matthew Gray Gubler.

'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' far ahead of Swedish-language original – but a box office disappointment all the same

Starring Daniel Craig, who hasn't been much of a box office draw (Cowboys & Aliens, Dream House) when not playing James Bond, and Best Actress - Drama Golden Globe nominee Rooney Mara, David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake raked in $19.19 million at no. 4. Its average was a just okay $5,595 per theater at 2,914 sites.

Now, does it sound impressive that on its second (extended) weekend Fincher's thriller earned nearly twice the total domestic gross of Niels Arden Oplev's Swedish-language original? Well, maybe.

Considerably less impressive is that after 12 days the $90 million-budget The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has reached only $57.1 million in the U.S. and Canada.

The original, award-winning film toplined MI4 actor Michael Nyqvist and A Game of Shadows actress Noomi Rapace.

War Horse Jeremy Irvine. Tony Award-winning play + Steven Spielberg movie disappoints?War Horse with Jeremy Irvine. In spite of a strong start, Steven Spielberg's World War I drama War Horse trotted at a much slower pace over the 2012 New Year's weekend. A few Academy Award nominations in key categories will likely boost the film's box office, but it remains to be seen whether this $66 million tale of a young, angelic-looking Englishman (Jeremy Irvine) and his thoroughbred horse Joey will end up in the black after its worldwide run. Director Spielberg hasn't been all that lucky at the domestic box office this year, as The Adventures of Tintin has been underperforming as well.

'War Horse' galloping at slower pace

Following a strong debut on Christmas Day, Steven Spielberg's World War I drama War Horse is now galloping at a slower pace. At no. 5 with $18.06 million from 2,547 venues, the per-theater average of this tale about a young Englishman (Jeremy Irvine) and his thoroughbred horse was a just okay $7,091.

For comparison's sake: at 3,455 locations, MI4's average was $11,057. True, MI4 has the advantage of higher IMAX ticket prices – but only at a few hundred theaters. And all things being equal, the lower the number of venues, the higher the per-theater average should be. MI4 is playing at about 900 more locations than War Horse.

As for War Horse having soared 140 percent when compared to last (three-day) weekend … Well, don't be fooled. War Horse opened on Sunday last week. It played only one day over the weekend.

After nine days, War Horse has taken in $44.08 million. Its budget was reportedly $65–70 million.

'War Horse' cast

In addition to Jeremy Irvine and its four-legged star(s), War Horse features Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston, David Thewlis, Toby Kebbell, Benedict Cumberbatch and David Kross.

Lee Hall and Richard Curtis adapted Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel, which had previously been turned into a successful stage production – adapted by Nick Stafford – in both the West End and on Broadway, where it won five Tony Awards, including Best Play.

We Bought a Zoo Matt Damon: Cameron Crowe 'family' movie not to recover its budget?We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon. Cameron Crowe's latest warm and fuzzy effort, We Bought a Zoo has been a commercial disappointment in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, despite the presence of Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, it's highly unlikely that the family tale will be able to recover its $50 million budget (not including marketing and distribution expenses) at the domestic box office. Crowe, whose previous effort was the 2005 road movie flop Elizabethtown, adapted (and Americanized) Benjamin Mee's 2008 book of memoirs about his purchase of the Dartmoor Wildlife Park in Devon, England.

'We Bought a Zoo': Non-talking four-legged animals not as appealing as squealing CGI chipmunks

Starring Matt Damon and former Woody Allen muse Scarlett Johansson (Scoop, Match Point), Cameron Crowe's “family-friendly” 20th Century Fox release We Bought a Zoo brought in $17 million at no. 6, for a cume of $44.49 million.

The film's per-theater average was a better-than-expected $5,376 (four-day) at 3,163 locations. But despite its performance this New Year's weekend, We Bought a Zoo will most likely be unable to recover its $50 million budget at the domestic box office.

Memories of the horrific slaughter of dozens of wild animals in Ohio a few weeks ago – the animals had been part of a private zoo – are surely not the reason for the relatively weak opening of We Bought a Zoo, which also happens to be about a privately owned zoo.

Instead, hefty movie-ticket prices, year-end expenses, and the weak U.S. economy are the probable culprits. A family of four could easily end up spending over $100 at the movies these days. Not many can afford that luxury.

Or perhaps it's just that live animals that don't talk – whether in zoos or in their fast-shrinking habitats – are of less interest to the moviegoing masses than CGI chipmunks that do.

'We Bought a Zoo' cast

Cameron Crowe's first narrative feature since the box office fiasco Elizabethtown six years ago, We Bought a Zoo has a so-so 65 percent approval rating and 6.3 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

Besides Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, the cast includes Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, 2004), Angus Macfadyen, and Patrick Fugit.

Elizabethtown, by the way, toplined Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, and Best Actress Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking, 1995).

Time for another Cameron Crowe-Tom Cruise collaboration?

Just a thought: after the less-than-heartening Elizabethtown and We Bought a Zoo box office returns, perhaps it's time for Cameron Crowe to once again pair up with his Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky star Tom Cruise.

Another We Bought a Zoo talent that might want to consider joining forces with Tom Cruise is screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna – of the Meryl Streep-Anne Hathaway 2006 hit The Devil Wears Prada.

Just a few weeks ago, McKenna had a major critical and box office bomb: the Sarah Jessica Parker comedy I Don't Know How She Does It, which earned less than $10 million in North America.

Steven Spielberg x2: Another box office disappointment

Two slots below War Horse, another Steven Spielberg movie could be found on the New Year's weekend box office chart: The Adventures of Tintin, which drew in $15.36 million at 3,087 theaters. To date, the $125 million motion-capture animated 3D feature has collected only $51.4 million domestically.

Considering that The Adventures of Tintin has the advantage of higher ticket prices, the U.S. and Canada box office performance – despite an enthusiastic reception in Quebec – has been, to put it mildly, disappointing.

With Tom Cruise performing impossible stunts in the live-action MI4, Tintin's motion-captured stunts in The Adventures of Tintin may look a tad less compelling. At least in English-speaking North America.

'The Adventures of Tintin' is major hit in France

Unsurprisingly, The Adventures of Tintin's top foreign market is France, where it has pulled in close to $53 million. It's currently the fourth biggest 2011 release in that country, trailing local box office hits The Intouchables and Nothing to Declare, and the Daniel Radcliffe-Ralph Fiennes fantasy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

Based on a trio of books by Hergé (a.k.a. Georges Prosper Remi) revolving around a youthful, quiff-haired Belgian journalist with a penchant for getting in trouble, The Adventures of Tintin features (in CGI'ed form) Jamie Bell as the titular hero, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, and Snowy a.k.a. Milou. Peter Jackson is one of the film's coproducer.

MI4 Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt: Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol nuclear threatMI4 with Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. MI4 follows IMF agent Ethan Hunt, who, Tintin style (minus the quiff, plus lots of attitude), travels from a Moscow prison to the top of Dubai's Burj Khalifa and on to the streets of Mumbai – all the while looking for a French assassin (Léa Seydoux) and trying to stop a mad Swedish/Russian strategist (Michael Nyqvist) who, Dr. Strangelove style, believes that nuclear war will help to solve the world's population (and possibly environmental?) problems. Despite Tom Cruise's best efforts, rescuing the semi-comatose domestic box office shall remain an impossible mission for the time being.

Why is the 2011 domestic box office down?

In 2011, Hollywood movies earned the major studios an estimated $10.2 billion at the U.S. and Canada box office. That's down 3.5 percent from 2010, according to Hollywood.com.

An estimated 1.28 billion tickets have been sold this year, which represents a 4.4 percent decline from 2010 and the lowest figure since 1995, the year of the talking pig Babe and Mel Gibson's Braveheart, when admissions totaled 1.26 billion.

Among the suggested reasons for the downturn, there are several that make perfect sense and several that utterly inane.

The U.S. economy at fault

The weak U.S. economy + high film-ticket prices combo is almost undeniably keeping people away from movie houses. In fact, that has happened in the past, most notably during the height of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, when the majority of the big Hollywood studios posted heavy losses, with a few of them almost going bankrupt.

Besides, movies nowadays can be watched on DVD or VOD about three months after they're released in theaters. That's another good reason for people to refuse to pay $12 or $15 or $18 for a movie ticket.

That may also help to explain why kiddie flicks (or “family movies”) have, relatively speaking, fared poorly this year – e.g., Happy Feet Two, Arthur Christmas, The Muppets, and, to some extent, Kung Fu Panda 2.

How many families can afford $100 weekends at the movies when parents, guardians, or what-have-you can rent a title for less than one-tenth of that amount and show it to an audience of four or five or ten?

North American moviegoers tired of sequels?

On the other hand, the claim that American and Canadian moviegoers have grown tired of sequels is patently absurd.

The top seven domestic releases this year are all sequels. These seven movies combined have so far brought in $1.9 billion – or nearly 20 percent of the year's total domestic take.

And the current hit at American and Canadian movie theaters is none other than Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol a.k.a. MI4. As clearly indicated by its abbreviated title, that's the fourth installment in Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible 15-year franchise.

Gadgets & gaming + social networks to blame?

As for the availability of new gadgets keeping people busy at home staring at their iPads and iPods … Well, does that mean only North Americans have access to those?

Business overseas has remained quite strong. This year, for instance, as per Screen International Paramount became the first Hollywood studio ever to pass the $3 billion mark outside North America (not adjusted for inflation/currency fluctuations).

One Warner Bros. general sales manager has placed some of the blame for the domestic downturn on more “gaming and social-networking opportunities.” But wait.

Wasn't “gaming,” Twitter, Facebook, etc. all very much available when Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes came out in late 2009? That Warner Bros. release fared – possibly much – better domestically than its sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which is still in theaters.

Strong eurozone box office despite structural economic weaknesses

It would be interesting to discover why some troubled European economies such as France and Germany continue to generate solid box office revenues in U.S. dollars despite not only the eurozone economic turmoil, but also a devaluation of the euro itself in the last five months.

In France, for instance, the top two movies of 2011 are:

  • Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's socially conscious comedy-drama The Intouchables / Intouchables, starring François Cluzet and Omar Sy.
  • Dany Boon's late 2010 comedy Nothing to Declare / Rien à déclarer, toplining Boon, Benoît Poelvoorde, and Karin Viard.

These two titles have a combined gross of nearly $200 million according to the Box Office Mojo chart.

For comparison's sake, France's top two movies of 2010, David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Mike Mitchell's Shrek Forever After, earned less than $100 million combined.

Perhaps the French don't have access to video games, Facebook, or Apple products?


Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol a.k.a. MI4 images: David James / Paramount Pictures.

Jeremy Irvine War Horse image: David Appleby / DreamWorks.

Matt Damon We Bought a Zoo image: Neal Preston / 20th Century Fox.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol a.k.a. MI4 trailer: Paramount Pictures.

'MI4': Tom Cruise to Save Domestic Box Office? + Two Steven Spielberg Underperformers © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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16 Comments to 'MI4': Tom Cruise to Save Domestic Box Office? + Two Steven Spielberg Underperformers

  1. zac


    I wasn't lauding MI4. I was stating a fact.

    But even if I *had* been lauding MI4, there's nothing contradictory in lauding that film and then ridiculing those who insist the North American box office is down because of too many sequels.

  2. GAR

    “In fact, by next weekend the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise should surpass the inflation-adjusted box-office take of the third one. Once again, this is proof positive that North American moviegoers are very much tired of sequels and of watching the very same characters over and over again.”

    Contradictory much? You laude MI4 in anticipation of it soon surpassing MI3 BO, then you say it's proof that North American moviegoers are tired of sequels and watching the very same characters? *cue Twilight Zone theme*

  3. California

    Gabi, that's why I love the Twilight books and movies…no cursing, no alcohol, no gratuitus violence, no kinky sex, a lot of love and my delight in looking at the lead characters in the films. I was really turned off by the book TGWTDT and had no desire to read #2 and #3 in the series. Can't imagine why it stayed at the top of the bestsellers list for such a long time. Give me The Twilight Saga any day.

  4. gabi

    I like BD more and more..after I sat through some real nasty anal Rape in TGWTDT, I needed some LOVE . The birthing scene is nothing to the brutality of Finchers Movie

  5. California

    Breaking Dawn would have done much better if they hadn't taken it out of so many movie houses. I couldn't find a single theatre in West Los Angeles where it was playing, which was a shame because I wanted to see it again and couldn't.

  6. sidsbowl

    Zoo's domestic cume is already $42 million. It should hit at least $60 (at least) with no problem. Don't forget the Cinemascore.

  7. George

    SERIOUSLY, ONE OF THEM IS A FLOP AT THE BOX OFFICE, AND ONLY IS STILL THERE BECAUSE OF ONE HOLIDAY. The Other is slow. Only One of Them was capable of Surge this week. Ahh And Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and Tom Cruise is going well.
    If you would had put Robert Pattinson, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and Tom Cruise and Box Office Surge, I Might agree.

  8. Alt Film Guide


    The year has been corrected. Thank you!

  9. TomH

    “In 2001, Hollywood movies should earn the major studios $10.2 billion at the North American box office. That's down 3.5% from 2010,”

    Um, I think you mean 2011, not 2001. :)

  10. Jill Kennedy

    It's definitely not a problem of want - it's a problem of vision. There is seriously not much that people want to see out there. Hollywood is stuck in a world of playing it safe (under-performing sequels, adaptations from other media) and trying to please the entire world with every movie they make (the 4 quadrant strategy). You can't please everyone - but Hollywood keeps trying and failing. Hollywood is simply out of visionaries. They've all gone to Silicon Valley and the world of tech.

  11. zac


    “A Game of Shadows” opened at 3,703 theaters. MI4 at 425. True, costlier IMAX theaters, but 425 all the same. MI4 expanded to its current 3,448 theaters only last Wednesday. No wonder “A Game of Shadows” has made more money to date. But not for very much longer.

    As of Tuesday, “A Game of Shadows” was less than $11m ahead of MI4. It'll be way behind MI4 by next Monday. Tuesday's per-theater averages: MI4 $2,788, GoS $1,975. Even taking IMAX into consideration, that's quite a gap.

  12. GAR

    Um, excuse me, but Sherlock Holmes has still made more money domestically than MI4. Why is MI4 touted as the saviour of the box office during this season? The holiday isn't over yet, and so it remains to be seen how everything will turn out. Based on sales so far this week of SH, it should be right about where SH1 was at the end of the 2009 holiday season, and is yet to be released in half as many more countries internationally. I have found the reporting of these films over the past two weeks to be a bit lopsided, first with sheer panic that SH “underperformed” compared to SH1, with no consideration of the timing of the releases.
    So, to recap…….MI4 still behind SH2 in domestic BO. It might catch up this weekend, given that almost 1/3 of it's gross comes from the added IMAX intake. But then again, that remains to be seen, don't it?

  13. editor

    Your figures are inaccurate. The three previous “Twilight” movies have grossed about $1.8 billion at the worldwide box office.

  14. emma

    This is a really weak weekend for movies because it includes New Years Eve. The Christmas weekend in 2009 for BD did not include New Years Eve.

  15. lauralynn

    It's true that BDp1 might end it's North American run $20 mil under Eclipse, but if you take international numbers into consideration then you have BDp1 ahead of all three previous Twilight films combined.

    The Twilight Saga franchise, before the release of BDp1 had grossed just over $900mil. That included ticket sales, DVD/Blu-Ray sales, and merchandising. As of this past Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011, BDp1 has made in ticket sales ALONE just under $700mil. The final tallies on BDp1 wont be in till late next year, after the release of BDp2. Only then will they have had time to add the totals of the DVD/ Blu-Ray and other merchandise sold, which will more than likely put the total over the $900mil mark making it the largest grossing film of the franchise.

  16. nikki

    That's why I don't like 3D movies. They make tickets much more expensive so that people frequent less the theatres but instead buy one ticket for a 3D blockbuster.
    Another reason IMO is that many movies come on DVD too short after their release in theatre, many wait to see the movie until its DVD release.

    I don't know for the US but in Europe and especially certain countries like Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, also Belgium the financial and economic bad circumstances caused a lack of trust in the system with social uncertitude as a consequence. People know they have to pay more to get less and are spending their money more carefully and justified. The last few months were terrible for Europe and the Eurozone compared to the first months of this year. It shocked people and opened their eyes for the catastrophe that's looking around the corner.
    Horeca, clothing industries and also cultural activities already feel the crisis.
    That's why I think that Breaking Dawn is the most successful movie of the Saga. Perhaps BO won't beat the other 3 movies, but people went 'en masse' to theatres in these changed times. The bank crisis in 2008 didn't impact social life so much, this crisis does.
    Better than compare on a superficial way BO numbers, I think it's important to have a broad view on the social backgrounds that change almost from month to month.
    From that POV, Breaking Dawn was extremely successful, wether critics like it or not.