Breaking a recent string of domestic disappointments for Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is off to a strong start. With an estimate of $56 million from 3,956 locations, M:I 5 now stands as the sixth-highest August debut in box office history.
There was a time when August at the box office meant one of two things: releases of questionable appeal, like The Expendables, or ‘smaller’ films, like The Help and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. In either category, August releases always had the chance to become hits. In fact, all three of the aforementioned titles were successful in their domestic runs. But they were rarely considered guaranteed winners. That’s why they were scheduled for August in the first place.
Of course, the August paradigm shifted in a big way last year with Guardians of the Galaxy. Though part of the uber-successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, GoG’s appeal was at least a question mark at the time of its opening. And what happened? A debut of $94.3 million (a new record for August) and a domestic total of $333.1 million – the third-highest grossing title of 2014. Influenced, in part, by Marvel’s success, Paramount chose the first weekend in August (the same frame that launched GoG) for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
Pre-GoG, August would have seemed an appropriate month to launch the latest Mission: Impossible title. The franchise had two giant summer hits with Mission: Impossible (1996) and Mission: Impossible II (2000), but hit a road bump with Mission: Impossible III in May 2006. That ended up as the lowest-grossing film in the franchise, with a domestic total of just $134 million. Five years later, Paramount chose to avoid summer altogether for the fourth M:I release – Ghost Protocol.
Ghost Protocol opened in December, as a platform release – a move that was hailed as visionary at the time. Starting in just 425 (primarily IMAX) locations, M:I 4 took in $12.7 million in its first weekend, or more than $30,000 per-screen. That initial release helped build word of mouth for the film, which ascended to first place when it expanded nationwide one week later. Ghost Protocol remained in first place the following weekend as well, falling just .5 percent from its sophomore frame. Among major studio releases, that stands as one of the more impressive holds in recent memory – aside from films that significantly boost their theatre counts. In fact, over the holiday season of 2011 – 2012, a period that had more than its share of major box office contenders, Ghost Protocol wound up as the one undisputed blockbuster, taking in over $200 million in North America alone.
With the M:I franchise reborn, expectations were high for Rogue Nation. Though Paramount claimed it was anticipating around $40 million this weekend, many others (myself included) believed the film would open much higher. This morning’s studio estimate has the film at $56 million – just short of Mission: Impossible II’s franchise-high debut of $57.8 million. Of course, it’s difficult to draw accurate comparisons between the five M:I titles and their respective box office performances. For one thing, it’s been 19 years since Mission: Impossible first hit theatres, so inflation is definitely a factor. Then there’s the fact that Ghost Protocol started in limited release and the first two films opened on weekdays. It gets confusing. What is clear is that Rogue Nation is off to a promising start in North America. And because the film is expected to earn as much as 70% of its worldwide total in international theatres, the future of the M:I series seems secure.
Turning to this weekend’s other major release, I would bet that the future of the Vacation franchise is in great peril. We told you yesterday that the reboot of 1983’s comedy classic was off to a disappointing start. Unfortunately, things did not improve significantly over its first full weekend. From 3,411 locations Vacation took in an estimated $14.85 million, or a total of $21.1 million in its first five days. Considering that projections had the comedy earning between $30 and $40 million from Wednesday – Sunday, there’s just no way to put a happy face on this Vacation.
Overall box office receipts were down more than 20% over the same frame last year, which is not surprising given the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy was the number one film in 2014. Next weekend, Fox launches its reboot of Fantastic Four. Both the 2005 comic book adaptation and its 2007 follow-up, Rise of the Silver Surfer, opened with more than $56 million. Expectations for 2015’s Fantastic Four are not as high. With Amazing Spider-Man in mind, an opening above $40 million would be a win for the superhero reboot.
|1.||M:I – Rogue Nation||$56,000,000||$56|