What Went Wrong: Knight and Day
By Shalimar Sahota
April 14, 2011
Knight and Day had a production budget of $117 million. Released on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, Fox had pushed the release date forward by two days. “It gives us a little bit of a jump on the weekend and the opportunity to get word-of-mouth going,” said Snyder. “We want to let people know how wonderful this picture is.” The film took $3.8 million on its opening Wednesday. Word-of-mouth wasn’t going anywhere, for although it entered the US top ten at #3, it was with a middling opening weekend take of $20.1 million. For a blockbuster that initially looked like a sure fire $100 million earner in the US, this was not a good sign, especially with Cruise in the lead role. This was his lowest opening weekend since Jerry Maguire (which opened to $17 million back in 1996!). Knight and Day ended its run with a take of $76.4 million.
Cruise and Diaz can’t be faulted when it came to their round the world trips promoting the film, helping it earn $185.5 million overseas. The film earned a total worldwide gross of $261.9 million. Not bad, but given the lackluster US box office takings, one could argue that money was certainly left on the table here.
The weekend after it opened in the US, fingers were being pointed as to whom to blame. Some felt that the blame lay squarely at Cruise. Ever since his couch-jumping incident, his popularity had dwindled, though I personally don’t see what’s wrong with a little couch cruelty. In Knight and Day he appeared to be parodying his Ethan Hunt role from Mission: Impossible. Yet, given the so-called crazy antics in his private life, having him star in a film where almost everyone thinks he’s insane seemed to be part of the selling point. If so, sending himself up is something Cruise does with bravado, and comedically he is great in this.
Tony Sella, co-president of marketing at Fox, tried to sum up why the film didn’t connect with US audiences. “Blame me,” he said. “Don’t blame Tom Cruise...I take full responsibility.” He was the one who okayed the stupidly daring teaser poster where Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz are nowhere to be seen, instead represented by white silhouettes. Sella explained how the poster was supposed to be a homage to Saul Bass. “It was a way for us to signal that this was a different, adult kind of movie,” he said. “The whole campaign was designed to evoke a film like North by Northwest. It wasn’t in any way us trying to hide anyone, simply to make the film look unique.” Fox made sure not to make this mistake with the international posters.
Sella also commented on what was being sold in the TV spots, that people might have thought, “‘Oh, I've seen that movie before. It’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith or it’s True Lies,’” said Sella. “That was exactly what we’d tried not to do, to make the movie feel like something you’d seen before.” Some people may have even thought of Killers, a very similar Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl comedy released just three weeks prior. The film told the story of a married couple, with the wife unaware that her husband is actually a spy. Suffering horrendous reviews, it made $47 million at the US box office. While Knight and Day fared better critically, reviews were still mixed, and appropriately so, since there was only half a good film here.