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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

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. AbramsMission: 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 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.

‘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’ 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 to Save Domestic Box Office? + Two Steven Spielberg Underperformers” follow-up post: “Why Is Domestic Box Office Down? Pundits Offer Unconvincing Explanations.”


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

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” last updated in July 2018.

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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.


“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*

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.

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.

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.


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?


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