Knight and Day: Tom Cruise not responsible for the spy caper’s disappointing domestic box office figures?
June 25–27 weekend box office: Despite the continuing success of Walt Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3, things remain wobbly at the domestic box office. This past weekend, Adam Sandler’s idiocy-filled comedy Grown Ups performed above expectations while Tom Cruise’s action-filled spy caper Knight and Day brought in disappointing figures.
As found at Hollywood.com, weekend revenues totaled an estimated $160 million – down 20 percent from last year. That was when Michael Bay’s braindead thrill-ride Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen debuted with $109 million.
There’s more: With a total domestic gross of $1.7 billion to date, summer revenues are down 5 percent from 2009 while attendance is off almost 11 percent.
But wait! Hasn’t summer just begun in the northern hemisphere?
Not at the North American (U.S. and Canada only) box office, where the summer season begins on the United States’ Memorial Day weekend in late May and ends on the U.S.’s Labor Day weekend in early September.
Now, a brief discussion of Grown Ups’ neuron-zapping appeal can be found further below. So we begin this article with a more interesting – and all but impossible to answer – question:
Why did the rollicking Knight and Day have such a lethargic debut at the domestic market?
When beating expectations isn’t enough
Directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma), and starring Tom Cruise as a secret agent on the run and Cameron Diaz as an innocent bystander/car restorer, the generally pooh-poohed Knight and Day collected a mere $20.5 million from 3,098 locations this past weekend as per final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.
The action comedy thus trailed both Toy Story 3 ($59.3 million on its second weekend) and Grown Ups ($40.5 million), while averaging $6,617 per theater – a barely passable figure even when taking into account that Knight and Day had opened the previous Wednesday.
Although not an outright bomb – $27.1 million after five days (about $2 million above pundits’ expectations) – Tom Cruise’s latest is an undeniable domestic flop because:
- It’s a Tom Cruise action flick, so indifferent reviews shouldn’t matter – see Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Mission: Impossible, Mission: Impossible II.
- Its $115–$125 million price tag (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses).
‘Don’t blame Tom Cruise’
According to a lengthy Los Angeles Times article by Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey, after Knight and Day opened last Wednesday to dismal numbers ($3.8 million), many in the media were quick to hold Tom Cruise responsible. In Hollywood circles, however, the blame fell on distributor 20th Century Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman, “who picked the movie’s title, its release date and micromanaged its marketing campaign, down to approving stills and press kits for the film.”
In the same article, Fox’s co-president of marketing Tony Sella is quoted as saying, “Blame me, don’t blame Tom Cruise. We did lots of focus groups for [Knight and Day], and no one ever said there was a star problem. Never. Tom Cruise was not the issue. I take full responsibility. And if the movie ends up going to $100 million, I want full responsibility too.” (In the U.S. and Canada, it didn’t. See further below.)
Instead of Tom Cruise (or Tom Rothman), mentioned as possibilities for Knight and Day’s mediocre domestic numbers were the initial trailer shown at Avatar screenings (audiences found it “confusing”), the Saul Bass-inspired poster, the release date, and even the title. (No one thought of “Ost by Österreich”?)
Whatever the reason(s), Knight and Day is the latest Tom Cruise star vehicle to underperform domestically, following the sequel Mission: Impossible III, the political drama Lions for Lambs, and the World War II thriller Valkyrie.
Knight and Day shows that Tom Cruise remains a top international draw
Update: Knight and Day ultimately collected an underwhelming $76.4 million domestically and a hefty $185.5 million internationally. Worldwide total: $261.9 million.
That should have been enough to cover Knight and Day’s production budget, though not its marketing and distribution costs. It’s unclear whether ancillary revenues were enough to cover the difference, as Hollywood studios don’t release that sort of information.
Knight and Day’s top international markets were: Japan ($28.3 million), France ($14.3 million), South Korea ($14.2 million), the United Kingdom ($14.1 million), and China ($13.4 million).
Something else: The fact that Knight and Day’s international figure is more than twice the domestic one should come as no surprise. Tom Cruise’s previous star vehicle, Valkyrie, grossed nearly 60 percent of its global take abroad ($118.5 million out of $201.5 million), while Mission: Impossible III, released during the height of the anti-Tom Cruise furor, took in more than 66 percent of its global take internationally ($264.4 million out of $398.5 million).
Grown Ups box office: Lowbrow Adam Sandler comedy brings them in
Now, moving on from Knight and Day to this past weekend’s no. 2 movie on the domestic chart.
As mentioned further up, Sony Pictures’ Grown Ups, an $80 million Adam Sandler comedy that some box office pundits claimed wasn’t “tracking” at all, took in $40.5 million from 3,534 venues.
For comparison’s sake: Among Sandler’s biggest hits (not adjusted for inflation), Big Daddy opened with $41 million in 1999, Anger Management with $42 million in 2003, The Longest Yard with $47 million in 2005, Click with $40 million in 2006, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry with $34 million in 2007, and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan with $38 million in 2008.
Every single one of these titles went on to gross more than $100 million domestically, with a couple of them crossing the $150 million mark.
Moviegoers want quality, original imbecility
As can be attested by the figures listed above, Grown Ups has had a domestic debut on a par with Adam Sandler’s best while also reinforcing pundits’ notion that there’s no box office blues that a good movie can’t cure.
That is, as long as one ignores the fact that Grown Ups has been referred to (by the New York Times’ Stephen Holden) as “lazy, mean-spirited, incoherent, infantile and, above all, witless,” and that the audience-embraced comedy currently has a 10 percent “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Besides Adam Sandler, Grown Ups features Kevin James, David Spade, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph. Dennis Dugan directed from a screenplay credited to Sandler and Fred Wolf.
Give global audiences what they crave…
Update: Grown Ups ultimately collected $162 million domestically and $109.4 million internationally. Worldwide total: $271.4 million.
It’s worth pointing out that the international figure is Adam Sandler’s best (not adjusted for inflation/currency fluctuations), as he has never been a top box office draw outside the United States.
Grown Ups’ top international market were Germany ($18.3 million), the United Kingdom ($12.2 million), and Australia ($10.7 million).
“Knight and Day: Tom Cruise” endnotes
In case you’re wondering about this article’s top image caption: At least some of the time, Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll are on the run in The 39 Steps, Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane are on the run in Saboteur, and Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint are on the run in North by Northwest. Not coincidentally, all three titles were directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Unless otherwise noted, “Knight and Day: Tom Cruise Blameless for Misfire?” 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 Knight and Day, Grown Ups, and other titles being profitable or money-losers at the box office 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 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 contractual details and data regarding pre-sales, rebates, and other credits that help to split/alleviate production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses can be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is accounted for).
Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise Knight and Day movie image: 20th Century Fox.
Adam Sandler Grown Ups movie image: Sony Pictures.
“Knight and Day: Tom Cruise Blameless for Misfire?” last updated in May 2022.