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Inception Box Office: Rare Original ‘Adult-Oriented’ Summer Blockbuster

Inception Leonardo DiCaprio Christopher NolanInception with Leonardo DiCaprio and director Christopher Nolan. An unusual summer blockbuster, the “adult-oriented” sci-fi thriller has generally received positive notices. Even so, not everyone is a fan.
  • Inception box office: Christopher Nolan’s original, “adult-oriented” mix of brainy science fiction, fast-paced action, and sentimental drama is on its way to becoming one of the year’s biggest blockbusters. Leonardo DiCaprio stars.
  • Two summer box office losers: The Steve Carell-Paul Rudd comedy Dinner for Schmucks and the Zac Efron weepy Charlie St. Cloud.

Inception box office: Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Nolan’s dream-hopping sci-fi thriller is a rarity among rarities

July 30–Aug. 1 weekend box office: Featuring an all-star cast headed by Leonardo DiCaprio, writer-director Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller Inception – the filmmaker’s first release since his mammoth 2008 blockbuster The Dark Knight – was the no. 1 movie in North America (U.S. and Canada) for the third consecutive weekend, grossing $27.5 million (down 36 percent) as per Total to date: $193.3 million.

Reportedly budgeted at $160 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution costs), the Warner Bros. release should cross the domestic $200 million milestone in the next day or so, eventually hitting the $250 million mark. It remains to be seen, however, whether Inception will have enough steam to reach $300 million domestically.

Each weekend Nolan’s movie has been losing about one-third of its business: $62.8 million on weekend no. 1; $42.7 million on weekend no. 2; and the aforementioned $27.5 million this past weekend. If that pattern continues, Inception will earn about $17–$19 million next weekend and $11–$12 million the weekend after. From then on, fewer and fewer locations will be showing it, which will mean even steeper drop-off rates. That’s why the $300 million milestone looks iffy.

‘Original’ & ‘adult-oriented’ summer blockbuster

Of course, whether or not Inception reaches $300 million – or even $250 million – in the domestic market, it’s a notable release all the same. In fact, Inception is a rarity among rarities when it comes to summer blockbusters:

  • It’s an original (not a sequel, not a remake, not based on another property) live-action movie.
  • It’s a potential Best Picture Academy Award contender.
  • And – whether or not you find its core “message” profoundly moving or appallingly asinine – Inception is, at least in conception, an “adult-oriented” effort.

Besides three-time Academy Award nominee Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator, 2004; etc.), Inception features an all-around Oscar-pedigreed cast: Winners Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, 2007) and Michael Caine (Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986; The Cider House Rules, 1999); and nominees Ellen Page (Juno, 2007), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, 2003), Pete Postlethwaite (In the Name of the Father, 1993), and Tom Berenger (Platoon, 1986).

In addition to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Dileep Rao, and Lukas Haas.

Inception fails to reach $300 million in the U.S. & Canada

Update: Inception crossed the $200 million milestone on Day 19 (Aug. 3) and the $250 million milestone on Day 32 (Aug. 16). Ultimately, Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller grossed $292.6 million domestically and a remarkable $533.6 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $826.1 million.

Among 2010 releases in the U.S. and Canada, Inception was one of 10 titles to earn more than $200 million and one of eight to earn more than $250 million. It was also one of two Best Picture Oscar nominees (along with Toy Story 3) and the only original live-action movie to reach either milestone.

Internationally, Inception’s top markets (including rereleases in 2013, 2017, and 2020) were China ($71.3 million), the United Kingdom/Ireland ($57.1 million), France ($43.4 million), Japan ($42.1 million), South Korea ($38.9 million), Germany ($36.9 million), Australia ($36.6 million), Spain ($22.2 million), Russia/CIS ($21.9 million), Italy ($15.5 million), and Brazil ($11.9 million).

Dinner for Schmucks Paul RuddDinner for Schmucks with Paul Rudd. Jay Roach’s lowbrow comedy costarring Steve Carell went on to become a box office underperformer both domestically and internationally.

More box office news: Steve Carell & Paul Rudd offer unappetizing Dinner for Schmucks

Also this past weekend, Paramount/DreamWorks’ Jay Roach-directed Dinner for Schmucks, which stars The 40 Year Old Virgin actors Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, took in a more modest than expected $23.5 million from 2,911 venues – pundits had been predicting $27–$30 million. The top movie on Friday, this Hollywood remake of Francis Veber’s 1998 French hit The Dinner Game lost ground to the dreamworld of Inception during the weekend proper.

For comparison’s sake: Starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, Shawn Levy’s Date Night opened with $25.2 million last April and has taken in $98.5 million in the domestic market. Dinner for Schmucks’ box office longevity, however, could be curtailed by competition from other lowbrow fare like the upcoming Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg cop action comedy The Other Guys.

A $69 million production, Dinner for Schmucks has a mediocre 47 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes’ top critics. Also in the cast: Jemaine Clement, Jeff Dunham, and Bruce Greenwood.

Update: As it turned out, Dinner for Schmucks was a commercial disappointment, collecting $73 million domestically and a measly $13.8 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $86.8 million.

Weepy Zac Efron star vehicle Charlie St. Cloud makes Universal cry

Faring even worse than Dinner for Schmucks was the Zac Efron weepy Charlie St. Cloud: With a paltry $12.4 million from 2,718 sites, the Burr Steers-directed Universal release debuted in fifth place – trailing not only Inception and Dinner for Schmucks but also the Angelina Jolie spy thriller Salt ($19.5 million on weekend no. 2) and Universal’s sole 2010 hit so far, Despicable Me ($15.5 million on weekend no. 4).

But who knows, Zac Efron’s international fans may come to the rescue of this $44 million production. After all, they did provide a boost to the Steers-Efron collaboration 17 Again ($72 million overseas) and to the sleeper hit High School Musical 3: Senior Year ($162 million overseas). One assumes that Universal, which has had a whole array of box office duds this yearRobin Hood, Green Zone, The Wolfman, Leap Year, Repo Men – is ardently hoping they will.

Now, comparisons between Charlie St. Cloud and the Robert Pattinson romantic drama Remember Me – which opened to $8.1 million in early March – aren’t exactly apt. The latter was a $16 million production; a “little movie” that, merely on the strength of Pattinson’s Twilight Saga popularity, received a wide release (2,212 theaters) via the mid-sized Summit Entertainment.

Update: This time around, Zac Efron’s fans were (almost) nowhere to be found, as Charlie St. Cloud ultimately took in $31.2 million domestically and an embarrassing $17 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $48.2 million. A sizable flop in relation to its cost.

Inception Box Office” endnotes

Unless otherwise noted, “Inception Box Office: Rare Original ‘Adult-Oriented’ Summer Blockbuster” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should usually be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources.

Comments about Inception, Dinner for Schmucks, Charlie St. Cloud, and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).

Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, international pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses can be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is accounted for). Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take; however, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Christopher Nolan Inception movie image: Stephen Vaughan | Warner Bros.

Paul Rudd Dinner for Schmucks image: Merie Weismiller | DreamWorks | Paramount Pictures.

Inception Box Office: Rare Original ‘Adult-Oriented’ Summer Blockbuster” last updated in July 2022.

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gaby -

i loved dinner for schmucks!! it was a hilarious movie i loved it!!!!!!!!!!!! :]

Angela -

I really feel bad about Zac Efron! It does look like that Charlie St Cloud would become a flop. I just looked up other Romantic drama movies that came out earlier this year and their budget (Dear John: $25M; Remember Me: $16m; The Last Song: $20m). Charlie St Cloud was made in a $44m budget. Had this movie been made on a cheaper scale it would not be a flop!

On the other hand, it’s difficult to predict how those movies would do in the box office. I don’t think critics like any of those 4 movies.

dan cataldo -

Saw the movie first night, Great movie will see it again. Highly reccomend for the big screen. Director Christopher Nolan never disappoints.

Angela -

Perhaps Universal should just learn to make movies in a smaller budgets. Summit is laughing now because the Twilight movies, Remember Me and others are made on a cheaper scale (Summit did release a few flops this year such as Furry Vengeance, but I think it’s forgivable?). Universal, on the other hand, releases a few movies with decent box office numbers but they are still consider flops because of the prodcution costs. For example, Green Zone grosses $94m worldwide. Good right? But the production cost for that movie was $100m!

LilyCC -

The weirdest thing about this summer is that Eclipse and Toy Story will be the biggest hits, even though Salt and Inception have higher profile names and cost more money.

LilyCC -

Universal has had the most flops this year. Now that they’ve cleaned house they should hope to get a good script or series.

LilyCC -

I’ve heard it was awful. Scott Pilgrim comes out soon and Inception is still strong. I don’t see Dinner for Schmucks making $100 million. Steve C. has been typecast. He needs to pick a different role soon.

Cindy -

Happy to see that most sites are also refraining from comparing St. Cloud’s surprisingly weak BO #’s to Remember Me’s. Very different circumstances considering RM had little to no advertising and was a small budget indie drama. It was an outstanding movie and am very happy that it ended up being a $$ maker for Summit in the end.

ASFan -

Dinner for Schmucks is the kind of film that needed to be exceptional in order to have a shot at 100M. It isn’t exceptional, so I would be surprised if it made it to 100M. If Date Night couldn’t do it when it opened a bit higher, how could Dinner for Schmucks?

Christopher Jennings -

I am happy for leonardo that his movie inception have led the movie list in ranking! The movie is really mind twisting!

H.L.S. -

Eclipse has made $624 million worldwide on a $65 million dollar budget. It has been out less than a month. Clearly it is the big winner of the summer. Inception cost over $160 million and is at about $230 million worldwide. It will never get to Eclipse numbers. Neither will Robin Hood, the A-Team, Salt, or many other big budget action films. This Summer will be know as the one where Toys, an African-American karate kid, and a girl’s choice between a vampire and a werewolf beat the big boys. Scott Pilgrim has hype but it will do Kickass numbers or less. There won’t be any more major hits until the holiday season when Tron and Harry Potter debut.

yessica -

Go to see Leo film,it’s is GREAT!!! I really hope it will top the box office this weekend!!

Wemberg -

I would like to thank the wonderful film “Inception”: Christopher Nolan, Tom Berenger,Ken Watanabe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy and the rest of the cast.


Cameron -

I’m a 18 year and i understood Inception lol.

I thought it was one of the best movies of the year if not the past 5 years


Inception isn’t going to be a huge box office champion because it’s too smart for most audiences and it’s not a sequel. Nolan did great with TDK because it was Batman. Without the recognizable Batman and Joker characters, that movie would have tanked. I liked Inception, but I think it will be lucky to make $200 million domestically. It may play better overseas.


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