Monday Morning Quarterback Part One

By BOP Staff

May 8, 2006

Raja Bell clotheslines and eliminates Kobe, all in the same week.

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The impossible mission is spinning this as a good performance

Kim Hollis: Mission: Impossible III opened to $48 million domestically, with $70 million taken in from overseas venues. Is this total the good, the bad, the ugly, or a little bit of all three?

Tim Briody: It's stunning, really. Something so clearly can't miss actually missed. I honestly don't remember the last time that was the case.

David Mumpower: The performance represents all three. $48 million is a highly disappointing total on its own. Taken in context with the international box office and the budget, it will be in the black. So, that's a victory of sorts. The per-venue average of $11,846 on 8,000 prints is god-awful, though.

Kim Hollis: The overseas numbers are certainly cause for positivity, but there's no legitimate way to spin the domestic performance into anything other than a disappointment. Any studio spokesperson who says otherwise is just lying through their teeth.

David Mumpower: I am in complete agreement on this point. A month ago, I was thinking $70 million at a minimum. As the release date approached, though, that number kept shrinking and shrinking. When Reagen Sulewski indicated he was projecting $54.3 million, I didn't even blink. As pessimistic as he was being relative to the past performances, he turned out to be optimistic with his forecast.

Joel Corcoran: I think you two have nailed it. With virtually any other movie, I'd grade this performance as "decent." But we're talking about the Mission: Impossible franchise here - six years ago, MI:2 opened to just shy of $58 million, and ten years ago, the first Mission: Impossible film opened to just over $45 million. Adjusted for inflation, that is about $64 million and $60 million respectively. I can't see how you can call this opening weekend for MI:3 anything other than an "unmitigated disaster."

Tim Briody: If you do see MI3, feel free to take up a couple of rows and stretch out in the theaters. There will be room.

Kim Hollis: We're talking about three million *fewer* people that went to see III versus I and over three million that saw III versus II. That's a pathetic downturn.

David Mumpower: That three million in ticket sales may be partially explained (say 50%) by a changing marketplace and some questionable marketing. The rest is all on You Know Who.

For legal purposes, BOP would like to state that it believes Tom Cruise's behavior is normal and rational

Tim Briody: I never thought one man's descent into dementia would be worth so much bank at the box office.

Kim Hollis: Addressing the elephant in the living room, is North America offering an indictment of Tom Cruise?

Joel Corcoran: Absolutely and without a doubt, yes.

David Mumpower: Make no mistake on the point. North America has just given Tom Cruise a code red. Even Colonel Jessep would be impressed by the hostility exhibited by this.

Kim Hollis: The other day, a friend of mine was mentioning that she wanted to see the film. Her face got red as she said, "I still *like* Tom Cruise." You could tell she was almost afraid to bring it up because of the derision it might invite. I think that's pretty much the feeling among the general public.

David Mumpower: So saying you like Tom Cruise, the most successful actor of the past 15 years, has become an admission worthy of shame now. There isn't much doubt about who won the Kidman/Cruise divorce now, is there?

Joel Corcoran: Maybe Paramount should've marketed this film by focusing on Philip Seymour Hoffman. He just won an Oscar, and he's played kind of wimpy characters in the past. Heck, my strongest urge to see this movie is to watch him play such an utterly mean bad guy. Just watching that scene advertised in the commercials where he says "First, I'm going to kill you in front of her," should be worth the price of admission.

Tim Briody: The more I thought about it this weekend, I'm also thinking that perhaps since MI3 was a J.J. Abrams movie, it may have been too cerebral for audiences who just wanted to see stuff blow up.

Kim Hollis: But really, it couldn't have been any less confusing than the first two. Abrams had nowhere to go but up.

Joel Corcoran: I don't think people even know who JJ Abrams is, though.

Four out of five Starbucks baristas agree

David Mumpower: That's the tragedy in all of this. I consider it to be the best action film since The Bourne Identity, and anyone who knows me would recognize this is very high praise. The bitch of it is that Cruise is a fantastic actor who does a great job in MI3.

Kim Hollis: It is indeed a *very* good action film. And incidentally, plenty of stuff blows up. I mean that in the best possible way.

David Mumpower: Kim's right. The bridge scene in the middle of the film will wind up being a strong contender for Best Scene of 2006 in our Calvins vote. In addition, Variety notes that MI3 received an A- Cinemascore, meaning that those who showed up loved up.

Tim Briody: All right, then Tom Cruise's insanity it is!

Joel Corcoran: Confirmed. I just asked the five people closest to me in the coffee shop where I'm sitting, "Who directed Mission: Impossible III?" None of them knew, but four of them remembered that Steven Spielberg directed last year's War of the Worlds. That is statistical, scientific proof.


Kim Hollis: If there's a Mission: Impossible IV, will Tom Cruise get the lead role?

David Mumpower: Well, if he has to audition for it, I guarantee there will not be a couch in the room.

Tim Briody: I cannot possibly top that.

Joel Corcoran: I don't think you can have another Mission: Impossible movie without Tom Cruise involved - the whole franchise centers around him. At minimum, you'd have to put him in the role of the "aging super agent" handing over the reigns to his replacement, and I don't see Cruise agreeing to such a minor role.

The Mission: Impossible franchise seems, well, Lost

Kim Hollis: Given the generally positive reviews and the historical track record for the franchise to show strong legs, where do we think Mission: Impossible III is headed going forward?

David Mumpower: At this point, MI3 could go either way. Optimistic analysts will discover this number is not unlike the one for Batman Begins last year, and that production went on to $200 million in domestic receipts. MI3 is of similar quality, offering several exceptional performances. The key is whether audiences are willing to even consider giving it a chance. This could be a situation where no matter how great the buzz is, people just say, "I spit in the face of Mr. Scientology."

Kim Hollis: I suspect that all of the shamed Tom Cruise fans will just wait for DVD.

Tim Briody: If it does have MI2's opening to total multiplier of 3.7, that would be $177.6 million. That really seems like a stretch from here.

David Mumpower: What would be a good performance from here for a $48 million opener on 8,000 prints? Doesn't even $150 million appear unlikely now?

Tim Briody: Yeah, I think $150 would be a long shot. Or at least a best case scenario.

David Mumpower: You read my mind, Tim. It's not as if $150 million is impossible but the extreme availability on opening weekend indicates that those who want to see it could have easily done so. Paramount should be thanking God for all of those international receipts. If not for them, this is an unmitigated disaster.

Joel Corcoran: I still say it's an unmitigated disaster, based on expectations. Batman Begins had to claw its way out of a swamp of public trepidation (if not outright fear) following Batman & Robin. The Mission: Impossible franchise held the high ground of public favor. Along with the Bourne franchise, these movies practically stole rug out from under James Bond, but now Tom Cruise has dragged everything down into a swamp of public loathing.

Kim Hollis: I would have to agree with Tim that $150 million is best-case scenario. Box office behavior has changed substantially since that time, and not in a way that's going to be good for MI3. Especially when you consider that the coming weeks have (possibly) bigger want-to-see movies in The Da Vinci Code and X3.

Is Poseidon taking on water?

David Mumpower: That's the other aspect of this which isn't being discussed much. I think that the producers of The Da Vinci Code and X3 are not in a state of panic right now, but Poseidon's should be freaked out.

Kim Hollis: Given the reports of Poseidon's poor tracking and the early negative reviews, it really should be. (And don't forget that we just had a made-for-TV movie covering the same ground recently.)

Tim Briody: I apologize for the bad metaphor, but no movie's stock is sinking faster than Poseidon right now.

Joel Corcoran: Hang on, I'm still searching for another cliche I can use ... .

David Mumpower: I am not in a state of panic about the summer box office season, but if Cruise in a franchise action film does this poorly, we are off to a troublesome start.

Joel Corcoran: I honestly don't think Poseidon has too much to worry about. If The Day After Tomorrow can open to almost $69 million over Memorial Day Weekend two years ago, this film can open to at least $40 million next weekend. Plus it has Andre Braugher!

Kim Hollis: And this weekend's box office still finished ahead of the same weekend last year by a pretty significant amount - 24%. I don't think there's any cause for alarm at all.

Tim Briody: Though there's no Cruise-like effect on these films, there sure is an awful lot riding on Da Vinci Code and X3 now after MI3's disappointment.

David Mumpower: Agreed. What we will learn later on when there is more empirical data is how much this is Cruise-Rage vs. another example of people moving further into the stay-at-home movie-viewing phase.



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