Count Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible among the mega-movie series that faltered by the third outing, joining Beverly Hills Cop, The Matrix and The Terminator among others.
Mission: Impossible III detonated with $47.7 million, below such other recent spy pictures as The Bourne Supremacy and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. At 4,054 theaters, the $150 million action spectacle had the fourth widest launch ever but did not achieve a commensurate height in box office, trailing its predecessors by a wide margin in terms of attendance.
Released ten years ago, the first Mission: Impossible's $45.4 million opening weekend would equal around $67 million today, adjusted for ticket price inflation, while the second's $57.8 million from 2000 would be about $70 million. To be fair, both bowed on Memorial Day weekend when Sunday is as potent as Saturday, but both also burnt off demand with Wednesday debuts. Mission I went on to gross $181 million, or $266 million adjusted, and Mission II did $215.4 million, or $260 million adjusted.
According to distributor Paramount Pictures' exit polling, Mission: Impossible III's demographic breakdown was identical to the previous movies, with 64 percent of the audience over 25 years old and 56 percent male.
Prior to the weekend, a Paramount spokesperson told Box Office Mojo that an opening between Mission: Impossible II and War of the Worlds ($64.9 million) was their bar for Mission: Impossible III's success, lower than media and industry expectations that had ballooned past $70 million. On Sunday morning, a hopeful Paramount likened Mission: Impossible III's potential to Batman Begins, which had a weaker-than-expected $48.7 million first weekend but went on to earn $205.3 million. Both sprung from dormant franchises with baggage—Batman and Robin for the latter and Cruise's overblown off-screen antics in Mission's case.
Waiting more than a few years to produce a sequel is always risky business in franchise movie-making. For every Bad Boys II, there's a Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines or a Legend of Zorro. What's more, the first two Mission: Impossibles were ephemeral thrill rides, not movies that many continued to love through the years, and, beyond Cruise's star power, they didn't establish compelling characters, like a James Bond, Jack Ryan or Jason Bourne.
Aside from a number of random action shots, including a rocket exploding behind running man Tom Cruise on a bridge, Mission: Impossible III lacked the strong hook and sense of fun of its predecessors in its presentation to the public, which was more damaging than anything Cruise did in his press campaign. After all, the centerpiece of the teaser and trailer was co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman threatening to torture and kill Cruise and his girlfriend—Cruise seethes in response and then performs a blur of stunts without ever uttering a word. The proceedings looked as generic as the movie's tagline, "The Mission Begins 05:05:06," leaving it to composer Lalo Schifrin's theme music from the original Mission: Impossible television series to add the excitement.
On the bright side, Mission: Impossible III will likely extend Cruise's $100 million streak to seven—beginning with Mission: Impossible II, his last six pictures have each grossed over $100 million at the domestic box office alone. Internationally, Cruise is an even bigger draw, evidenced by the additional $70.3 million that Mission: Impossible III generated overseas in its first five days. That all speaks to how consistently well-packaged Cruise's pictures have been, from concept to director to co-stars, which is why people who say they don't like Cruise still often like his movies.
As a summer kick-off, Mission: Impossible III was softer than most in the past decade, but it did top the openings of last year's Kingdom of Heaven and House of Wax combined. It's also not likely to derail 2006's momentum—Summer 2004 was initially underwhelming, with relatively modest bows from Van Helsing and Troy, but it ended up the highest-grossing summer on record, led by Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2.
Also debuting, the first wide release from Freestyle Releasing, the $14 million period horror, An American Haunting, captured $5.8 million at 1,668 venues. The distributor reported that three quarters of moviegoers were less than 25 years old.
Meanwhile, Walden Media's latest children's book adaptation following pictures like Holes and Because of Winn-Dixie, the environmentalism-themed Hoot uprooted a mere $3.4 million at 3,018 theaters—the weakest opening ever for a movie playing at over 3,000 theaters.
Among holdovers, last weekend's hot topic, United 93, descended 53 percent to $5.3 million, despite moviegoers rating it highly in distributor Universal Pictures' opening weekend exit surveys. The $15 million Sept. 11, 2001 recreation has collected $20.2 million in 10 days.
• Review - 'Mission: Impossible III'
• 7/5/05 - 'War of the Worlds' Booms on Independence Day Weekend
• 6/13/05 - 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' Honeymoons at the Top
• 5/9/05 - 'Kingdom' of Limbo, 'House' of Lax (Same Weekend, Last Year)
• 6/24/02 - 'Minority Report' Tops 'Lilo' in Photo Finish
• 'Mission: Impossible' Showdown
• Spy Movies
• Weekend Box Office Results
NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, May 7 and was revised on Monday, May 8 with actual grosses.