The Mummy has been buried. The movie opened at No.2 in the US box-office behind Wonder Woman.
With Tom Cruise in the lead, the revival was poised to be a beat-the-heat, popcorn-flinging summer blockbuster, a nostalgia grab for millennial fans of the 1999 title, and the launchpad for the studio’s “Dark Universe” of monster movies.
With US$174mil worldwide, The Mummy is far from the summer’s biggest flop. But the breakdown – US$32.2 mil domestic, US$141.8mil – indicates that whatever The Mummy is selling, American audiences aren’t really buying.
What happened? Here are five takeaways that might do some of the explaining.
Between its first and second weekends, Wonder Woman saw only a 45% drop in ticket sales. That’s a feat matched by only a handful of superhero movies including Batman Begins in 2005, Spider-Man in 2002, and The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012. Wonder Woman is a critical and commercial success that has succeeded on essentially every measure, including being the most tweeted-about movie of the year so far.
The Mummy simply couldn’t cut through the cultural zeitgeist in the same way.
Ah, the elusive “movie star”. Despite the obituaries and postmortems written about the term, it gets tossed around and attributed to Cruise to this day. Still, The Mummy continues a trend that Cruise is more bankable overseas than he is domestically. Cruise has been far from a sure thing lately in the US – Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Edge Of Tomorrow both opened to lower domestic totals than The Mummy.
But those two recent releases ended up making US$100mil and US$270mil respectively at international markets. With his bankability overseas, it’s no question why Cruise is a prized possession for studios, but at least in the US, his star has dimmed.
Whether it be fan rebellion with Suicide Squad or studio attribution with Baywatch, critic aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes have become increasingly scrutinised for being reductive. The Mummy was the latest summer blockbuster hit with a rotten rating, this time 17%.
It Comes At Night and Megan Leavey both performed below expectations despite having critical support (86% and 80% respectively on Rotten Tomatoes). Exactly how much those sour ratings contributed to The Mummy‘s overall box office total is up for debate, but it’s safe to say the conversation continues.
Universal has signed on big name talent like Cruise and Johnny Depp to headline its Dark Universe slate, a way to relaunch the monster movies on which the studio was built. The studio argues that, rather than comparing the movies to a Marvel or DC Comics universe, the public should consider each project as its own entity, but under the umbrella of a common genre.
Perhaps it will be The Bride Of Frankenstein, slated for 2019 with Bill Condon attached to direct, that will spark the public’s interest in the universe. But The Mummy‘s inauspicious launch just didn’t do the trick.
5. Another revival bites the dust.
Baywatch, Alien and now The Mummy – all three are nostalgia-tized franchises that have seen feature film revivals hit theaters this summer, and all three are also titles that have now underperformed or flopped at the box office, especially in North America. Three makes a trend, as they say, but add to that list King Arthur (not a franchise so much as a familiar property, but a similar idea) and Pirates Of The Caribbean (“revived” is a stretch, but it had been six years since the last installment) and you have something larger at work.
To be clear, this is not a brand new trend, but rather one that persists. Last summer saw Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Alice Through The Looking Glass crumble. The year before, Pan.
If there’s one theme this summer’s box office has doubled down on so far, it’s that superhero movies still work – at least for now. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 was the first (and only) big hit of the summer until Wonder Woman came along. Beyond that, things get murky. The answer to the industry’s thirst for bankable originality is a billion dollar one. But, for now, it’s apparent that many of these retreads are worn. – Reuters/Variety/Seth Kelley