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Tom Cruise Is Box Office King Once Again

MI4 Ghost Protocol Tom Cruise
MI4 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.
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‘MI4’ is no. 1: Tom Cruise actioner ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ easily tops domestic box office chart

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

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, $141.2 million vs. A Game of Shadows’ $136.9 million according to figures found at

Over the extended Christmas weekend, Dec. 23–26, MI4 collected $44.1 million from 3,448 locations. The previous (debut) weekend, in “limited” release (485 locations), MI4 took in $12.8 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 threat
MI4 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:

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

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 $19.2 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.

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Considerably less impressive is that after 12 days the $90 million 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 $18.1 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 as the mother (a role not that different from the one she played in the well-liked but commercially disappointing fantasy The Water Horse), 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 $15.4 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.

War Horse Jeremy Irvine. Domestic box office down even for Steven Spielberg
War Horse with Jeremy Irvine. In spite of a strong start, Steven Spielberg’s World War I drama War Horse trotted at a much slower pace over the 2012 New Year’s weekend. A few Academy Award nominations in key categories will likely boost the film’s box office, but it remains to be seen whether this $66 million tale of a young, angelic-looking Englishman (Jeremy Irvine) and his thoroughbred horse Joey will end up in the black after its worldwide run. Director Spielberg hasn’t been all that lucky at the domestic box office this year, as The Adventures of Tintin has been underperforming as well.

Why is the 2011 domestic box office down?

In 2011, Hollywood movies earned the major studios an estimated $10.2 billion at the U.S. and Canada box office. That’s down 3.5 percent from 2010, according to

An estimated 1.28 billion tickets have been sold this year, which represents a 4.4 percent decline from 2010 and the lowest figure since 1995, the year of the talking pig Babe and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, when admissions totaled 1.26 billion.

Among the suggested reasons for the downturn, there are several that make perfect sense and several that utterly inane.

The U.S. economy at fault

The weak U.S. economy + high film-ticket prices combo is almost undeniably keeping people away from movie houses. In fact, that has happened in the past, most notably during the height of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, when the majority of the big Hollywood studios posted heavy losses, with a few of them almost going bankrupt.

Besides, movies nowadays can be watched on DVD or VOD about three months after they’re released in theaters. That’s another good reason for people to refuse to pay $12 or $15 or $18 for a movie ticket.

That may also help to explain why kiddie flicks (or “family movies”) have, relatively speaking, fared poorly this year – e.g., Happy Feet Two, Arthur Christmas, The Muppets, and, to some extent, Kung Fu Panda 2.

How many families can afford $100 weekends at the movies when parents, guardians, or what-have-you can rent a title for less than one-tenth of that amount and show it to an audience of four or five or ten?

North American moviegoers tired of sequels?

On the other hand, the claim that American and Canadian moviegoers have grown tired of sequels is patently absurd.

The top seven domestic releases this year are all sequels. These seven movies combined have so far brought in $1.9 billion – or nearly 20 percent of the year’s total domestic take.

And the current hit at American and Canadian movie theaters is none other than Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol a.k.a. MI4. As clearly indicated by its abbreviated title, that’s the fourth installment in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible 15-year franchise.

The Intouchables trailer with François Cluzet and Omar Sy. An “inspirational” comedy-drama about two radically different men – a wealthy, white tetraplegic (Cluzet) and his black caretaker (Sy) – who must learn to both get along and get out of scrapes, The Intouchables has become one of the biggest box office hits in French cinema history. Written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, The Intouchables was inspired by the true story of French businessman Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his French-Algerian caregiver Abdel Sellou, who were depicted in Jean-Pierre Devillers and Isabelle Cottenceau’s 2003 TV documentary À la vie, à la mort.

Gadgets & gaming + social networks to blame?

As for the availability of new gadgets keeping people busy at home staring at their iPads and iPods … Well, does that mean only North Americans have access to those?

Business overseas has remained quite strong. This year, for instance, as per Screen International Paramount became the first Hollywood studio ever to pass the $3 billion mark outside North America (not adjusted for inflation/currency fluctuations).

One Warner Bros. general sales manager has placed some of the blame for the domestic downturn on more “gaming and social-networking opportunities.” But wait.

Wasn’t “gaming,” Twitter, Facebook, etc. all very much available when Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes came out in late 2009? That Warner Bros. release fared – possibly much – better domestically than its sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which is still in theaters.

Strong eurozone box office despite structural economic weaknesses

It would be interesting to discover why some troubled European economies such as France and Germany continue to generate solid box office revenues in U.S. dollars despite not only the eurozone economic turmoil but also a devaluation of the euro itself in the last five months.

In France, for instance, the top two movies of 2011 are:

  • Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s socially conscious comedy-drama The Intouchables / Intouchables, starring François Cluzet and Omar Sy.
  • Dany Boon’s late 2010 comedy Nothing to Declare / Rien à déclarer, toplining Boon, Benoît Poelvoorde, and Karin Viard.

These two titles have a combined gross of nearly $200 million according to the Box Office Mojo chart.

For comparison’s sake, France’s top two movies of 2010, David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Mike Mitchell’s Shrek Forever After, earned less than $100 million combined.

Perhaps the French don’t have access to video games, Facebook, or Apple products?

Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows Noomi Rapace Robert Downey Jr: Transformers + Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows with Noomi Rapace and Robert Downey Jr. Guy Ritchie’s special-effects-laden thriller Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows stars Robert Downey Jr. as a witticism-spewing Iron Man version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective, while Noomi Rapace more or less replaces Rachel McAdams as the female “lead.” To date, A Game of Shadows has been a domestic box office underperformer – perhaps because it looks too much like an autobot-free reboot of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which came out a few months ago to strong box office figures and equally strong critical derision.

Guy Ritchie-Robert Downey Jr. actioner Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows a domestic box office ‘flop’?

Dec. 18 update: Starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows hasn’t exactly “saved” the North American box office despite the estimated $40.02 million it earned (or rather, is earning) this weekend, Dec. 18–20, at 3,703 locations, including $1.25 million from Thursday midnight screenings.

In fact, A Game of Shadows failed to shake things up because it earned slightly over $40 million. After all, the original Sherlock Holmes collected $62.3 million on Christmas weekend 2009 (admittedly, when people were out of school/work) while last week’s predictions had A Game of Shadows bringing in anywhere between $55 and $60 million.

I’m not sure if many have used the word “flop” in reference to a movie that grossed $40 million over the course of three days. But unless things pick up dramatically next weekend and the following one – the Monday holiday should help things some – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows will be just that – a flop – at the domestic box office.

The Sherlock Holmes sequel cost a reported $125 million, or about 30 percent more than the original. Even when ignoring the tens of millions spent on marketing and distribution, in order for Warner Bros. and fellow producing companies to recoup their investment at the domestic box office A Game of Shadows would have to rake in around $235–$250 million.

How many believe that will happen? How many believe Sherlock Holmes 2 will reach, say, $150 million?

Mediocre reviews

The original Sherlock Holmes went on to gross $209.02 million in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to $315 million internationally. Its worldwide total was $524.02 million.

Reviewers, for their part, have been anything but enthusiastic about the sequel. A Game of Shadows has a mediocre 46 percent approval rating and 5.4 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics. For all that is worth, the film does have an “A-” CinemaScore rating.

Dec. 12 update: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows performed slight worse than Sunday estimates indicated: $39.63 million over its debut weekend.

International market to the rescue

Now, for the good news: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows has earned $14.5 million abroad after opening in a mere six territories, with most major ones (e.g., Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Brazil, Spain) yet to come.

Moral of the story: At least for now, if you’re looking for a Mighty Savior to rescue the Hollywood studios from the dainty North American box office – down this weekend about 12 percent from last year – don’t look for any particular movie. Look overseas, for other countries.

Besides Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows features Rachel McAdams, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actress Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Jared Harris, Paul Anderson, Geraldine James, and Eddie Marsan.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked trailer with Jason Lee and a group of squeaky-voiced furry creatures. Like Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, another domestic box office underperformer this Christmas season.

Another underperformer

Also underperforming – especially compared to its predecessor – is Mike Mitchell’s animated feature Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, which collected an estimated $23.5 million at no. 2 over the weekend.

Back on Christmas 2009, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel pulled in $48.87 million on its debut weekend. At that time, the Chipmunks even surpassed James Cameron’s mighty Avatar on their first day out, Dec. 23.

The latest Alvin and the Chipmunks annoyance, which cost approximately $80 million, features the voices and/or bodies of Jason Lee, Justin Long, Anna Faris, David Cross, Amy Poehler, Christina Applegate, and Matthew Gray Gubler.

Sinking reviews & blasé international market

Movie reviewers have overwhelmingly disliked Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, which has a sinking 12 percent approval rating and 3.4 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics.

Things overseas haven’t been all that great, either. In 38 territories (including Spain and the U.K.), Chip-Wrecked has earned $14.5 million, or slightly less than Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in a mere six markets.

But since this is a kiddie flick, business should pick up considerably during the holiday season. The Squeakquel went on to gross $443.1 million worldwide; the first Alvin and Chipmunks (2007) took in $361.3 million.

U.S. & Canada tired of sequels?

Ah, and before anyone comes up with the nonsensical idea that Americans and Canadians have gotten tired of sequels in 2011, just check out the list of biggest blockbusters of the year. The top seven movies are all sequels:

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1.
  • The Hangover Part II.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
  • Fast Five.
  • Cars 2.
Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol Tom Cruise hood: Bigger hit than MI3?
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol with Tom Cruise & his tough guy hood. The fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible movie franchise will likely be more successful at the domestic box office than its immediate predecessor, J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III. Directed by Brad Bird, Ghost Protocol enjoyed a remarkable debut in (somewhat) limited release in North America. But no matter how successful in the domestic market, Ghost Protocol will surely attract many more moviegoers elsewhere. Update: Ghost Protocol reached a cume of $209.4 in the U.S. and Canada (vs. Mission: Impossible III’s $134 million) and $485.3 internationally.

Tom Cruise to rescue domestic box office?

Dec. 17 update: With the underwhelming debuts of the Robert Downey Jr. actioner Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and the kiddie flick Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, the silver lining at the North American box office this weekend is the Brad Bird-Tom Cruise $140 million-budgeted collaboration Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which has raked in an impressive, IMAX-boosted $4.6 million – including $1 million from Thursday midnight showings – at only 425 locations (300 of which IMAX theaters).

As per The Hollywood Reporter, Ghost Protocol should bring in $12 million by Sunday evening. If so, that would represent an outstanding, even considering the IMAX surcharges, $28,400 per-theater average.

Dec. 12 update: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol scored $12.8 million, for a $30,083 per-theater average.

‘Ghost Protocol’ vs. ‘Mission: Impossible III’

For comparison’s sake: Directed by J.J. Abrams, Mission: Impossible III earned $47.7 million at 4,054 theaters in July 2006 (approx. $58 million today), averaging $11,776 per site (approx. $14,000 today).

At a little more than one tenth the number of theaters, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is expected to take in more than one fifth of the inflation-adjusted gross of its predecessor. IMAX surcharges or no, that’s quite impressive.

Admittedly, the eagerly anticipated previews of Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight Rises at several dozen IMAX locations were no hindrance for Paramount’s Ghost Protocol. The latest Christopher Nolan-Christian Bale Batman movie will open in summer 2012.

‘Ghost Protocol’ to surpass predecessor?

Budgeted at a reported $150 million, Mission: Impossible III ultimately grossed a disappointing $134.02 million at the North American box office, which led to wildly exaggerated media speculation that Tom Cruise’s career was in as bad a shape as the current North American box office.

Internationally, however, the third installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise fared much better, earning $263.82 million. Its worldwide total was $397.85 million – the eighth biggest that year.

Not bad for a “flop” that even led the head of (Paramount’s parent company) Viacom, Sumner Redstone, to publicly berate Tom Cruise for his Oprah Winfrey and Brooke Shields antics. (Cruise’s crass, vulgar Les Grossman is an obvious – and quite funny – Redstone parody.)

Also in the Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol cast: Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Léa Seydoux, Simon Pegg, Vladimir Nashkov, Anil Kapoor, and Michael Nyqvist – the leading man of A Game of Shadows’ Noomi Rapace in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

‘New Year’s Eve’ has nothing to celebrate

In other box office news, last weekend’s top movie, Garry Marshall’s all-star New Year’s Eve, was down two spots with about $2.4 million at no. 3 on Friday, and an estimated $7.7 million for the weekend.

Despite the presence of Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Biel, et al., if these estimates are correct, after ten days New Year’s Eve will have earned less than half (about $25 million) of the $56.26 million its Marshall-directed, all-star predecessor Valentine’s Day raked in on its debut weekend in February 2010.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows trailer with Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, and (an unbilled) Rachel McAdams. Surely not the sort of adventure tale Arthur Conan Doyle had envisioned back in his day.

Men of action & talking chipmunks to rescue abysmal domestic box office?

Dec. 16: The North American box office is in the doldrums. Receipts last weekend (Dec. 11–13) were the lowest since September 2008 (unadjusted for inflation), while attendance figures – if reports are on target – are at their lowest since September 2001, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Lest we lose all hope, two tough, middle-aged male stars and a bunch of squeaking chipmunks are expected to turn things around. Enter Robert Downey Jr. in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Tom Cruise in Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and the titular stars of Mike Mitchell’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked.

The battle of the sequels: ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ vs. ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’

Things have started out well for Tom Cruise, whose $140 million-budgeted Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol grossed $1.1 million at only 425 locations midnight Thursday.

That’s about as much as – not adjusted for inflation – Mission: Impossible III earned in 2006 at 2,000 sites. Helping matters some were previews of The Dark Knight Rises at a few dozen or so IMAX locations.

Considerably less successful at midnight Thursday shows were Robert Downey Jr. and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, also featuring Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actress Noomi Rapace. The actioner opened with a relatively modest $1.25 million from 1,650 screens.

Back in late December 2009, the original Sherlock Holmes opened with $62.3 million. Expect A Game of Shadows to have a markedly more modest debut.

Box Office Mojo has it pegged at $59.8 million. Perhaps it’ll reach that high, but I’d surprised if the Guy Ritchie-Robert Downey Jr. movie-movie passes $50 million, let alone $55 million.

‘New Year’s Eve’ movie tops worst weekend since 2008

Dec. 11 update: The worst weekend at the North American box office since September 2008, with an overall take of $78 million.

That’s this very weekend, Dec. 9–11, when Garry Marshall’s critically lambasted Warner Bros. release New Year’s Eve succeeded in topping the domestic chart with a meager $13.7 million, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. At 3,505 locations, New Year’s Eve averaged a not-at-all celebratory $3,910 per site.

Thanks to a name cast that includes teen icon Zac Efron, Sex and the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker, Oscar winner Halle Berry, and Oscar nominee Michelle Pfeiffer, some had been expecting that New Year’s Eve would open around $30 million. Later on, $20 million became an acceptable figure. But $13.7 million?

Chances are Marshall’s New Year’s Eve movie won’t get even close to matching its $56 million budget at the domestic box office – let alone being able to recoup it.

New Year's Eve Zac Efron Michelle Pfeiffer
New Year’s Eve with Zac Efron and Michelle Pfeiffer. Garry Marshall’s all-star critical disaster New Year’s Eve has also turned out to be a box office bomb, opening with less than half the amount earned by its predecessor – Marshall’s all-star Valentine’s Day – in February 2010. Younger man Zac Efron, whose credits range from the High School Musical flicks to Me and Orson Welles, and older woman Michelle Pfeiffer, whose credits range from Scarface to Chéri, are two of the members of the extensive New Year’s Eve cast, which also includes Oscar winners Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, and Robert De Niro.

‘New Year’s Eve’ vs. ‘Valentine’s Day’ & ‘He’s Just Not That into You’

For comparison’s sake: Marshall’s all-star Valentine’s Day – featuring Julia Roberts, Taylor Lautner, Bradley Cooper, Shirley MacLaine, Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, and countless others – debuted with $56.26 million in February 2010.

Ken Kwapis’ similarly packaged all-star romantic comedy-drama He’s Just Not That into You – with, once again, Bradley Cooper, plus Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, et al. – brought in $27.78 million in February 2009.

Not helping matters is that New Year’s Eve has a dismal 3 percent approval rating and 3.0 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics. Next to Marshall’s latest effort, He’s Just Not That into You seems like a movie classic, with a 32 percent approval rating and 5.0 average.

Valentine’s Day had a more modest – though still nearly five times better than New Year’s Eve – 14 percent approval rating (and 4.0 average).

One element that He’s Not That Just into You and Valentine’s Day have in common – but that is missing from New Year’s Eve – is Bradley Cooper. When Garry Marshall comes up with “Veterans Day” or “Presidents’ Day” or just plain “Easter,” he might want to ensure that Cooper is somewhere around.

On a positive note, New Year’s Eve opened internationally with an acceptable $12.6 million in 36 territories.

Dec. 12 update: Garry Marshall’s New Year’s Eve movie debuted with $13.01 million, for a $3,714 per-theater average – or less than $200 above The Sitter‘s $3,582 average.

‘New Year’s Eve’ movie cast

The extensive New Year’s Eve movie cast includes the following:

Michelle Pfeiffer. Zac Efron. Sofia Vergara. Hilary Swank. Halle Berry. Abigail Breslin. Sarah Jessica Parker. Josh Duhamel. Jessica Biel.

Til Schweiger. Katherine Heigl. Cary Elwes. Alyssa Milano. Sarah Paulson. Robert De Niro. Seth Meyers. Cherry Jones. Penny Marshall.

Jon Bon Jovi. Common. Lea Michele. Ashton Kutcher. James Belushi. Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges. Hector Elizondo. Ryan Seacrest. Carla Gugino.

‘The Sitter’ lands with a thud

Expectations for the R-rated Jonah Hill comedy The Sitter were quite low to begin with. After earning an estimated $3.72 million on Friday, The Sitter seemed doomed to gross $1–$2 million less than the most modest predictions of about $10–$11 million.

As it turns out (if estimates are accurate), the 20th Century Fox release managed to pull in $10 million, at the lower end of – but still within – expectations. These days, that’s good news.

The Sitter‘s per-theater average was a weak $3,636 at 2,750 locations. Directed by David Gordon Green, The Sitter cost a reported $25 million. Also in the cast: Sam Rockwell and Ari Graynor.

Dec. 12 update: The Sitter brought in $9.9 million, for a $3,582 per-theater average.

Note on the current state of the North American box office: not a single movie on the Top 12 chart averaged more than $6,000 per theater. Only The Descendants had an average above $5,000 – and that’s the only movie playing in less than 1,800 locations. (The fewer the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be.)

Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol image: David James | Paramount Pictures.

Robert Downey Jr. and Noomi Rapace Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows image: Daniel Smith | Warner Bros.

Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron New Year’s Eve image: Warner Bros.

Jeremy Irvine War Horse image: David Appleby | DreamWorks.

Matt Damon We Bought a Zoo image: Neal Preston | 20th Century Fox.

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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*

ritu -

Despite the festival season Breaking Dawn Part I indeed did a rocking business worldwide .It tuled the box office for straight 5 weeks with all the competitors way behind.

Jiyalin -

I saw this movie! Tom Cruise is amazing

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.

Jill Kennedy -

It’s definitely not a problem of want - it’s a problem of vision. There is seriously not much that people want to see out there. Hollywood is stuck in a world of playing it safe (under-performing sequels, adaptations from other media) and trying to please the entire world with every movie they make (the 4 quadrant strategy). You can’t please everyone - but Hollywood keeps trying and failing. Hollywood is simply out of visionaries. They’ve all gone to Silicon Valley and the world of tech.

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?

nikki -

That’s why I don’t like 3D movies. They make tickets much more expensive so that people frequent less the theatres but instead buy one ticket for a 3D blockbuster.
Another reason IMO is that many movies come on DVD too short after their release in theatre, many wait to see the movie until its DVD release.

I don’t know for the US but in Europe and especially certain countries like Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, also Belgium the financial and economic bad circumstances caused a lack of trust in the system with social uncertitude as a consequence. People know they have to pay more to get less and are spending their money more carefully and justified. The last few months were terrible for Europe and the Eurozone compared to the first months of this year. It shocked people and opened their eyes for the catastrophe that’s looking around the corner.
Horeca, clothing industries and also cultural activities already feel the crisis.
That’s why I think that Breaking Dawn is the most successful movie of the Saga. Perhaps BO won’t beat the other 3 movies, but people went ‘en masse’ to theatres in these changed times. The bank crisis in 2008 didn’t impact social life so much, this crisis does.
Better than compare on a superficial way BO numbers, I think it’s important to have a broad view on the social backgrounds that change almost from month to month.
From that POV, Breaking Dawn was extremely successful, wether critics like it or not.

Bettybmusing -

Once again truth wins the day. Some people just can’t handle box office bottom-line truth. :-)

Thomas -

Hollywood should listen to what people want. I am 49 years old with a wife and a 15 year old son. I remember too many times when we thought about going to the movies, but ended up not going because there was nothing playing that attracted us. There were also a few times where we walked out of a film early on because it contained pointless graphic violence or displayed casual drug use or gay perversions that had absolutely nothing to do with the story. It is bad enough the schools don’t lift a finger to stop the drug culture there; we don’t need Hollywood perverting our children by portraying drugs as a matter of fact part of every day living. This happened in the opening scenes of Grandma’s Boy, right after I had lectured my son to stay away from anyone or anything that might influence him to do drugs. He is having a hard time finding friends that are not wrapped up in smoking pot.
I blame Hollywood for their own demise. I know I am not the only one that feels this way. We have friends that simply do not go to the movies anymore because there is no way to really know what perversions are in a movie until you see it. Reviewers accept these perversions as normal these days, this was not always the case. When I was young it was a rare thing to see drugs, perverts, profanity, graphic violence, or back-talking children in a film. Now it is almost a given that at least one of these is in the next film you will see. Americans are tired of it. The novelty of blood flying all over the screen is worn out, contrary to what the Hollywood experts claim. I don’t know about you, but I am getting more and more sensitive to this stuff. People do get desensitized to this stuff at first, but I find my aversion growing every time I am exposed to it. The next problem is that Hollywood has run out of creative thinking. All too much I can watch a film for 10 minutes and predict with stunning accuracy exactly what will happen over the next 90 minutes. There are a few exceptions. Add to all this the poor quality of the movie theaters. Their screens are small, the commercials and previews are too long. And I have to now pay a hefty price tag $15-18 for the privilege. We have been enjoying watching old movies on cable that we DVR and play back at our leisure, and it’s no big loss if the movie is not for us. Also, older films are generally better than the new stuff. Hollywood should be making a killing right now. With all the technology available there is no end to what they could do, yet they replay the same old story lines adding more and more perversions. Boring.

miller -

Been there, Done that. and the celebs in Valentines Day were a LOT more appealing (bradley cooper, shirley mcclaine, the catchy Taylor2, julia roberts, jamie fox, anne hathaway, george lopez etc) …plus blown up blue condoms don’t have much appeal…..


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