Box Office Round Up – July 31 – August 2, 2015

Stumped-Magazine-Mission-Impossible-Rogue-Nation-Tom-Cruise

Get behind the numbers of the last weekend’s box office! Chris Neumer looks at the positive narrative now surrounding Tom Cruise and how haphazard the labeling of ‘hits’ has become.

by Chris Neumer

If it’s possible to be ‘old school digital’, that’s what I am. I love music and I love mp3s, particularly and especially mp3s without any strange restrictions on them that prevent me from playing them on my iPhone or on other computers. I don’t have a Spotify account or a Pandora account and, save for a handful of Youtube videos, don’t ever stream music. There’s just something psychologically appealing to me about having an actual thing that I can delete if I want to. I enjoy deleting bad music so much that I almost consider it a hobby.

I occasionally end up getting multiple copies of the same mp3 at exactly the same bit rate. What I find most fascinating about this is when one version of the exact same song is wildly different in size than the other. As far as I can see, they are identical, and yet, one is four MB larger than the other. I always squint at the mp3 and wonder what I’m missing. (Hopefully it’s not malware).

Because any time I come across two almost identical things/situations that engender significant variations in other arenas, I stop and try to figure out what it is that I’m not seeing. I mention this here because this last weekend the latest installment of a popular action franchise with a $150 million budget was released to theaters, earned $56 million its opening and was heralded as “a hit”, as being the “Best ever showing” and giving its studio “plenty to celebrate”.

About six weeks ago, another installment of a popular adventure franchise with a $150 million budget was released to theaters and did $209 million its opening weekend. It too was considered a hit, delivering the best ever showing and giving its studio plenty to celebrate.

I’m, of course, talking about Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Jurassic World respectively. It seems incongruous to me that the only real difference between the two films (thus far) are how much they took in their opening weekends and despite that gaping chasm, they are both labeled with exactly the same adjectives and terms.

I know Jurassic World had the biggest opening of all time and is one of the three biggest movies in history, but still, it doesn’t seem like a movie that does a quarter of its opening weekend total would (or should) be classified in the same ‘successful’ categories.* Lest we forget, both movies have $150 million budgets and Jurassic World out did Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation by more than that in five days. Jurassic World had $152 million more than Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation—and just domestically, might I add—on the Monday morning after its release. And both films are “amazing”, “massive” and “impressive”?

* An interesting point to contemplate too is that with the name attached to Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation including Tom Cruise as both star and producer, JJ Abrams and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, it’s not only possible, but probable that more backend points were given away on it than on Jurassic World, which has a near rookie director, Colin Trevorrow, a near rookie star, Chris Pratt and only Steven Spielberg as an executive producer.

Even more interestingly, Ant-Man came out just two weeks ago, pulled in more Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’s $56 million (it did $57 million) and was deemed something of a failure. People compared Ant-Man to Elektra! Deadline began dissecting Ant-Man’s performance with this statement: “While the domestic figure surely isn’t the bomb that Elektra was ($12.8M)…”. Forbes called it a “middle-of-the-road entry” and tried to assure people that they shouldn’t panic about its box office performance. And Ant-Man had a smaller budget than Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and grossed more than it did too!

I can hear the naysayers now. “Oh, but look at the foreign numbers! Tom Cruise is huge over seas and no one outside of New York or California knows who Paul Rudd is!” I can hear them and they’re wrong.

The Monday after Ant-Man opened in the United States, it had $114 million in foreign money. The Monday after Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation opened domestically, it had $65 million.

No matter which metric you want to use to try to delineate the hits and the misses, it would appear that Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a miss… I mean, if Ant-Man is a miss and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation cost more to make and took in less at the box office, common sense and logic would suggest it’s a miss too. Strangely, the only people who seem unaware of this fact are the journalists who are assigned to write the stories about the box office.

In a weird way, I think the “success” of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is directly attributable to Cruise’s jumping on Oprah’s couch how many odd years ago.

After Cruise lost his mind on television, leaping for love and slamming prescription medication, he was Hollywood’s persona non grata. His almost brain-washed wackiness transcended the silver screen and leaked out into society off his film’s one-sheets. To think about Tom Cruise was to think about crazy… and no one in America wants to think about crazy.

Story after story of his exploits was written and then dissected by a society of people who was lusting after tales of celebrities losing their shit; see also: Amanda Bynes. It was probably the grandest scale example of the American media narrative surrounding the treatment of stars. First, the media builds them up. Then they enjoy their stardom. Then they take them down a notch or two (or, in Cruise’s case, 108). Then they revel in how far the stars have fallen. Then they slowly start building them up again, until they finally have a story about how the stars have overcome so many different obstacles over the last few years.

The only person who didn’t care about this was Cruise himself. Despite horrible press for basically ten years, the man just kept doing what he did: namely, being an A-list leading man. He kept making good movies and, after a couple of years, the news that he was doing batshit crazy things like running up and down the outside of the world’s tallest building provoked stories of how dedicated Cruise was to his work, not stories detailing how this was further proof of his insanity (which, let’s be honest, seems quite logical). Finally, with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation hitting theaters, it seems as though the media decided that Cruise had served his penance and they were free to champion him again without question or hesitation. And thus, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a miraculous late summer hit… that made less money than that horrible disappointment, Ant-Man.

 

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