- 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 alongside an extensive name cast that includes Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, and Ellen Page.
Inception box office: Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Nolan’s dream-hopping sci-fi thriller is a summer 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 effort since his mammoth 2008 blockbuster The Dark Knight – was the no. 1 movie on the North American (U.S. and Canada only) chart for the third consecutive weekend, grossing $27.5 million (down 36 percent) as per final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com. Total to date: $193.3 million.
Reportedly budgeted at $160 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses), 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.
Inception movie cast
Besides three-time Academy Award nominee Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator, 2004; etc.) as dream-hopping professional info thief Dom Cobb, now tasked with implanting an idea into a target’s subconscious, Inception features an extensive Oscar-pedigreed cast:
Winners Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, 2007) as Cobb’s deceased (suicide) wife, Mai, who haunts his own dreams; and Michael Caine (Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986; The Cider House Rules, 1999) as Professor Stephen Miles, Cobb’s mentor and father-in-law.
Nominees Ellen Page (Juno, 2007) as Ariadne, the architect of the artificial dreamscapes where the inception is supposed to take place; Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, 2003) as Mr. Saito, initially one of Cobb’s targets, now his inception job boss; Pete Postlethwaite (In the Name of the Father, 1993) as Watanabe’s dying rival businessman Maurice Fischer; and Tom Berenger (Platoon, 1986) as Peter Browning, an executive at Fischer’s business empire.
In addition to: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur, Cobb’s main partner in crime; Tom Hardy as identity theft expert Eames; Dileep Rao as the freewheeling pharmacologist Yusuf; Cillian Murphy as Robert, Fischer’s heir and the “dream inception” target; and Lukas Haas as Cobb’s initial dreamscape architect, Nash.
$300 million out of reach in the domestic market
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 $533.5 million internationally. Worldwide gross: $826.1 million. After several international rereleases (2013, 2017, and 2020), its global cume totaled $836.8 million.
Among 2010 releases in the U.S. and Canada, Inception – an obviously profitable endeavor – was one of 10 titles to earn more than $200 million and one of eight to earn more than $250 million. It was also the only original live-action movie and one of two Best Picture Oscar nominees (along with Toy Story 3) to reach either milestone.
Internationally, Inception’s top markets (including rereleases) 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), Brazil ($11.9 million), the Netherlands ($9.7 million), Sweden ($9.4 million), and Mexico ($9 million).
“Inception Box Office: Rare Original ‘Adult-Oriented’ Blockbuster” notes
Unless otherwise noted, “Inception Box Office: Rare Original ‘Adult-Oriented’ Blockbuster” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline.com, etc.).
Comments about Inception 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, domestic/international sales/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 may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – 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.
Michael Caine, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christopher Nolan Inception movie image: Stephen Vaughan | Warner Bros.
“Inception Box Office: Rare Original ‘Adult-Oriented’ Blockbuster” last updated in September 2023.