It has been a bad box office summer so far (lots of pressure on Barbie and Oppenheimer to turn things around!). Sure, a couple big movies are doing well—Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is sitting at $842 million, and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is at $663 million—but after suffering through the flop weekends of The Flash, which is now a historic bomb for Warner Bros., and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One is also taking a hit with an $80 million five-day domestic opening weekend. For the traditional three-day frame, Dead Reckoning bagged $56.2 million, less than Indiana Jones. Yikes, right? Well, maybe not. This is where context matters.
Dead Reckoning opened on Wednesday to take advantage of a few more days of screening in premium large format theaters like IMAX. This week, Oppenheimer opens and has a three-week monopoly on IMAX, which means Dead Reckoning only has nine days to earn those sweet, sweet IMAX dollars (Dead Reckoning earned $25 million globally from IMAX so far) . Ultimately, this is about money going into stars’ pockets, because Tom Cruise and Christopher Nolan are both big enough names to get a cut of box office receipts, and IMAX sells at a higher ticket price, which means more money for them. But in chasing the almighty dollar, Tom Cruise shot himself in the foot with bad headlines.
Because that $80 million five-day opening weekend would look GREAT as a three-day total, and it WOULD have been the three-day total. The people who show up for a movie on a Wednesday are the same people who would show up on a Friday—they’re true fans who can’t wait to see the movie. By opening on Wednesday versus Friday, Dead Reckoning did not increase its audience, it just diluted the audience for opening night.
Because $80 million is a fantastic opening weekend result for Mission: Impossible. This franchise doesn’t generate mega box office on opening weekend. The franchise record is 2018’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout with $61 million. If we were comparing straight three-day totals, we would be talking about Dead Reckoning improving on its predecessor by a whopping 24% and setting a new franchise record for opening weekend. Those are good headlines! Instead, we’re talking about Dead Reckoning disappointing expectations with a $56 million three-day weekend, all because the film opened two days early. Had they just opened on Friday, they would have gotten that $80 million concentrated in three days, and the context improves.
However, there are some good signs for Dead Reckoning developing legs and holding strong at the box office. One is an “A” CinemaScore, and I feel like I have to say this every time, but people will insist on arguing with me whenever we talk about it, while the CinemaScore is not the final word on anything about a film’s quality or performance, it DOES indicate the direction word of mouth will go. An “A” means overwhelmingly positive word of mouth, which usually translates to a strong box office hold.
Going along with that is that the M:I franchise skews older, and older adults are less likely to go to the theater on opening weekend, instead catching the movie later in the run. Between that and good word of mouth, Dead Reckoning should continue to perform well in the coming weeks, much like how Top Gun: Maverick held up throughout summer 2022. But really, the box office story of Dead Reckoning is that a cynical ploy for more money resulted in bad headlines. Great job, everybody!