Tom Cruise JACK REACHER Box Office: Above and Beyond Expectations?

Tom Cruise Jack Reacher movieTom Cruise Jack Reacher box office: Acceptable no. 2?

Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher in the Paramount-distributed, Christopher McQuarrie-directed film adaptation of Lee Child's novel One Shot. The studio had officially been expecting a very modest $12-$15 million over the Dec. 21-23 weekend. However, if early estimates are any indication, by Sunday evening Jack Reacher may end up collecting $17.5-18 million at 3,352 North American locations. Not great for a megastar like Tom Cruise, but perhaps enough to shut up the naysayers. (Image: Tom Cruise Jack Reacher movie.)

According to early, rough estimates found at Deadline.com, the latest Tom Cruise movie earned an estimated $5.7 million on Friday, trailing only Peter Jackson's 3D-boosted The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, with $10.5 million at 4,100 venues on Friday (down 73 percent compared to a week ago, which included $13 million from Thursday midnight screenings) and probably $31.5 million for the weekend. (See also: "The Hobbit Box Office: Trailing Two The Lord of the Rings Movies.")

Jack Reacher vs. other Tom Cruise star vehicles

For comparison's sake: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, the fourth installment in Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise, scored $12.78 million at only 425 locations on its debut weekend in mid-December 2011, according to Box Office Mojo. Even if Jack Reacher takes in $18 million, that'll represent a passable 5,369 per theater, whereas Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol's per-theater average was 30,083. Now, remember: all things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be. And guess what, high-profile movie sequels are almost invariably much more successful than new entries, even if those are based on popular novels.

A better comparison would probably be another Tom Cruise star vehicle, Valkyrie – directed by The Usual Suspects' Bryan Singer. (Coincidentally, Jack Reacher's director is The Usual Suspects and Valkyrie's screenwriter.) Distributed by United Artists, the 75 million-budgeted Valkyrie opened with $21.02 million on Dec. 25, 2008, eventually collecting $83.07 million at the domestic box office and $200.27 million worldwide.

Jack Reacher will quite likely follow a slightly more modest trajectory, even though its opening weekend should fall short of $20 million. After all, though playing at about 600 fewer locations and having lost some steam as a result of its Thursday (Christmas Day) opening, Valkyrie had the advantage of Friday falling on Dec. 26, a (non-official) holiday for most people and one of the busiest movie days of the year.

Jack Reacher vs. This Is 40

Final comparison: Judd Apatow's This Is 40, which was reportedly tracking along the same level as Jack Reacher, will likely open with a considerably more modest $12 million at 2,912 sites, after taking in an estimated $4 million on Friday. True, This Is 40 is an R-rated comedy (vs. the PG-13 thriller Jack Reacher), but it goes to show that tracking can be – and often is – off the mark.

What? No comparisons to Rock of Ages? Nope. That wasn't a Tom Cruise star vehicle. And in all likelihood, the only reason Rock of Ages eventually cumed at $38.15 million domestically was because of people curious to see rock-and-roller Cruise. Else, the critically lambasted Adam Shankman-directed musical would probably have raked in one-tenth that amount. (See also: "Barbra Streisand The Guilt Trip Disappoints.")

Tom Cruise too short for Jack Reacher?

As mentioned in my previous box office post, some have repeatedly snickered at the 5'7" Tom Cruise playing the 6'5" Jack Reacher – going as far as to remark that Cruise's height would affect Jack Reacher's box office prospects. Yeah, much like Peter O'Toole's height affected the box office prospects of Lawrence of Arabia, and Taylor Lautner's height affected those of New Moon, Eclipse, and the two Breaking Dawn movies.

If Jack Reacher's early box office estimates are on target, the Tom Cruise putdowns will prove to be as off-target as they are both mean-spirited and absurd. And remember, Tom Cruise was widely ridiculed when it was announced he'd play the lead in the 1994 film version of Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire. That Cruise movie ended up grossing $105.26 million (not adjusted for inflation) in the U.S. and Canada. (More on "height-challenged" performers Taylor Lautner, Peter O'Toole, and Robert Pattinson.)

Tom Cruise toplines Jack Reacher cast

Besides Tom Cruise in the title role, Jack Reacher features Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog, Robert Duvall, Richard Jenkins, Nicole Forester, and Michael Raymond-James. Christopher McQuarrie also wrote the adaptation of Lee Child's novel.

Tom Cruise Jack Reacher movie photo: Karen Ballard / Paramount Pictures.

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