Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A tale of two Toms

The summer blockbuster season is well under way heading into Memorial Day weekend. Ignoring Warner Brothers' Poseidon (everyone else did, apparently), the results of the first round are interesting. In one corner: Maverick, he of the $25 million-dollar smile and bulletproof opening draw. After the first two installments of the Mission: Impossible franchise grossed over a billion dollars worldwide, with initial weekends of $45 and $57 million respectively, Paramount must have believed that MI: III was a pretty safe bet to at least equal, if not surpass the series's past performance. Especially with wunderkind J.J. Abrams behind the helm and recent Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman as the, er, heavy.

In the other corner, Joe Banks himself: Mr. Everyman. Also a member of Hollywood's $25 million-per-picture club, the second Tom brought his neo-Jimmy Stewart persona to Sony's adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. Although his teaming with the Grazer/Howard combo worked well in the past, see Apollo 13, he was also the star of one of the biggest flops in moving a best-selling book to screen, see also The Bonfire of the Vanities. Factor in the religious controversy that surrounded the book (causing the Vatican to call on viewers to boycott the movie), some brutal early reviews at Cannes, and Da Vinci's prospects were far from clear, despite the built-in audience of the book's legions of fans.

What happened? One Tom's movie premiered to so-so reviews but a healthy $77 million first-weekend take. Right where a studio wants its summer tentpoles to be. Word-of-mouth seems favorable and it's a good bet to reach $200 million. The other Tom's movie, while generally praised for what it was, came up thirty million dollars shorter, opening at $47 and limping across the $100 million dollar mark three weeks into its U.S. run. Neither studio nor star will likely be hurting at the end of the day -- especially factoring in the film's international box office, which has performed much better than domestic -- but at least one of them is probably wishing there had been less jumping over chairs on Oprah, on-air meltdowns with Matt Lauer, and placenta-eating pledges. When the dust settles, one Tom will probably still be sitting atop the $25 million-dollar pyramid, but the other Tom could find himself in a seat next to Jim Carrey on slow road down to $20 million and box office mortality.


  • The true test for Tom #1 will be when he stars in a non-franchise-type movie, like another Jerry Maguire or something. That's when we'll know for sure how far his star has fallen.

    By Blogger Shawn, at 4:08 PM  

  • Cruise's last three non-summer blockbusters (Collateral, The Last Samurai, and Vanilla Sky) all opened to about $25 million and just broke $100 million in the U.S. So that seems to be his zone for a non-franchise picture.

    But even going back to Minority Report, which opened with $35 million in the middle of June, there has been some underperforming in his draw for event movies.

    I just think to the extent that "Tom Cruise" was as solid a brand that you could have to sell your picture, he has done some lasting damage to the value of the brand with the Scientology and Katie Holmes stuff. Especially with the kind of back-end deal he got for the Mission: Impossible series, studios would probably think long and hard before making a similar arrangement with him in the future.

    Not that anybody really knows if Tom Hanks is actually the regular Joe that he comes across as (compare Tom's publicity stunts with Hanks's self-deprecating clip at the Oscars this year). But he seems to realize the value of that image in terms of his brand, and doesn't do anything in the media to dilute it.

    By Blogger Chris, at 4:36 PM  

  • Bottom line still is if you can get either Tom to sign on the dotted line for a movie, it's greenlit.

    They've both shown to be accomplished actors over the years. They are different - to be sure - but I don't think they've disgraced mankind.

    Cruise has been under a public microscope for close to twenty years. I think he's come through remarkably well for that kind of scrutiny.

    Hanks has been loved and - I believe - given some distance. Much like Harrison Ford, whom you hardly heard anything about even in his most popular days.

    By Blogger Dave, at 8:37 PM  

  • WAIT A MINUTE ------

    can we get them to play themselves in a buddy picture?

    Can we get them to play EACH OTHER in a buddy picture???

    No one take this idea. It is mine.


    By Blogger Chris Soth, at 11:29 PM  

  • Well since tv show remakes are all the rage, Chris, work up a fresh treatment on Bosom Buddies for them and you'll be set

    By Blogger Chris, at 9:42 PM  

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