Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” is defusing a bit at the domestic box office, readjusting for an estimated $78 million gross over its five-day opening. That’d be a substantial chunk behind projections headed into the weekend, which had the Tom Cruise action sequel hoping for $90 million.
Some in the industry were expecting a “Top Gun: Maverick” halo effect for “Dead Reckoning” after last year’s legacy sequel positively ignited movie theaters, rocketing through the summer to become the fifth-highest grossing domestic release of all-time. That doesn’t seem to be the case though, as “Mission” isn’t exactly transcending the numbers typical for its franchise.
The last entry, 2018’s “Fallout,” launched with a then-franchise record $61 million over three days. “Dead Reckoning” opened on Wednesday, plus previews on Tuesday evening — a bump-up in the calendar that the industry suspects was implemented to take advantage of premium ticket prices for Imax. Universal and director Christopher Nolan take over those auditoriums next weekend with their sweeping historical drama “Oppenheimer.”
Tom Cruise may have fostered a reputation as the global vanguard for movie theaters over the past few years — “I love my popcorn,” he declared in a new video this week — but it’s worth a reminder that his films aren’t the biggest openers on the block. Instead, they tend to draw older audiences, who are less inclined to roll out for a new release in the first few days. “Top Gun: Maverick” is the star’s superlative multiplier, taking its $126 million three-day debut to a $718 million finish, but “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” more than tripled its opening weekend, as did the 2015 entry “Rogue Nation.”
As “Dead Reckoning” falls behind opening estimates, the franchise will need to find those kinds of legs again. This seventh franchise entry is the most expensive yet — with a production budget that ballooned to $290 million, not only due to its high-octane set pieces but also a series of COVID-related production delays and safety measures. (“We are the gold standard!” Cruise shouted at crew members he caught breaking protocols in 2020.) That’s more than $100 million higher than the price tag for “Fallout.”
Strong word-of-mouth should be helpful. The “Mission” series is now a favorite among critics for its daredevil stunts, intricate set pieces and wry humor. Variety chief film critic Peter Debruge filed a rave for “Dead Reckoning,” writing that it “delivers a formidable concept and several hall-of-fame set-pieces while somehow managing to tie the storylines back into these movies’ core mythology.” He’s far from an outlier, as the film stands with a 92% approval rating from top critics on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences are also exhilarated, as indicated by the “A” Cinema Score grade determined by surveying ticket buyers.
“Mission: Impossible” will also look to register strongly overseas, where the franchise has become a strong draw. Both “Fallout” and “Rogue Nation” earned more than 70% of their ticket sales in foreign markets. So far, “Dead Reckoning” has earned $82.1 million across 70 international territories through its first three days of release.
“Dead Reckoning” sees Tom Cruise back as secret agent Ethan Hunt, recruiting his crew of super-spies to take on a very scary and very topical enemy: an all-powerful artificial intelligence called the Entity. Christopher McQuarrie returns to direct after helming the last two entries. Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby and Henry Czerny make series returns, while newcomers Hayley Atwell, Esai Morales, Pom Klementieff, Cary Elwes and Rob Delaney join the fray.
Even with Cruise driving motorcycles off cliffs and chasing criminals around Europe, there is perhaps a more remarkable box office narrative continuing to unfold this weekend. Angel Studios’ “Sound of Freedom” continues to show strength as a bona fide word-of-mouth monster. Major studios are projecting a $23 million haul through the weekend — which would mark a sizable 17% uptick from its gross last weekend.
Wide releases hardly ever see week-to-week rises in ticket sales, but “Sound of Freedom” isn’t a typical wide release. After being shelved by Disney during the shuffle of the 21st Century Fox acquisition, the Jim Caviezel thriller was eventually taken on by Angel Studios. The Utah-based banner has employed a “Pay It Forward” system, encouraging viewers to donate money to the company so that it can purchase and distribute tickets to other prospective audience members looking to see the film at no cost. But a release doesn’t go up in ticket sales just based on an untraditional system — with its glowing “A+” grade on Cinema Score and lots of chatter on social media, “Sound of Freedom” is a phenomenon, particularly among conservative audiences.
The film, which has been scrutinized by anti-trafficking experts, tells the story of real-life ex-fed Tim Ballard, who left the government to take on human trafficking through his own means. Ballard founded the non-profit Operation Underground Railroad, though he has reportedly parted ways with the organization more recently.
Sony’s “Insidious: The Red Door” looks to take third place, projecting a $12.6 million haul through Sunday. That would mark a sizable 62% tumble from its opening last weekend, when the horror sequel debuted on top of domestic charts. The Screen Gems, Stage 6 Films and Blumhouse co-production carries a modest $17 million production budget — a figure that its $54 million domestic gross has already far surpassed.
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” is facing a 59%-or-so drop in its third weekend. The Harrison Ford finale added $3.3 million on Friday, pushing its domestic total to $136 million. The Disney release will soon surpass “Fast X” ($145 million) to become one of the top 10 domestic releases of the year; it’d be more remarkable if it weren’t for the film’s whopping $300 million production budget.
Disney also looks to round out the top five with the Pixar romance “Elemental.” The animated feature added $2.6 million on Friday, stretching its domestic haul to $119 million. “Elemental” bombed upon release, landing Pixar’s lowest opening in history ($29 million), but it has held remarkably well in the weeks since, continuing to draw family crowds. While it won’t recoup its $200 million production budget in North America, things seemed far bleaker just a few weeks ago.
Opening in limited release, Disney is putting out the ensemble comedy “Theater Camp” out under its Searchlight Pictures banner. The indie release, starring Molly Gordon and Ben Platt, looks to capitalize on strong notices out of the Sundance Film Festival. The film is opening in six theaters in Los Angeles and New York, earning $109,000 on Friday.