In Hollywood, it used to be that if you had a franchise in your back pocket, you were a made man. It meant that you could stretch yourself as an actor, not really worry about box-office and then fall back on your hit-making machine to keep the money men happy. That no longer seems to be the case.
Several weeks ago we heard that Paramount was waiting to see the box office grosses for Tom Cruise’s action-comedy Knight and Day before officially greenlighting Mission: Impossible 4, it appears to be that they’re happy enough with that film's performance to pull the trigger on a fourth Ethan Hunt adventure. Good news all around then? Not really – Tom Cruise has had to take a severe pay cut from his usual $25 million fee for the film.
Everyone is suffering in these tough economic times and Hollywood is no different. The execs at Paramount are wary of fully financing the Brad Bird directed film to the tune of $135 million, so they’ve been looking for ways of offsetting that cost, reaching out to David Ellison, son of Oracle Corporation billionaire, Larry Ellison for half of the production budget.
Cutting Cruises upfront fee shaves a lot off the film on paper - think about it, would you want to be shelling out $135 million or $160 million in these tough times? However, this doesn’t mean that Cruise won’t be getting paid. Sources close to Cruise state that he will "get a nice back-end after cash break-even,” meaning that if the film is profitable then he’ll get a big paycheck.
Cruise banked over $70 million for each previous Mission and taking his piece off the back-end is something similar to what Jim Carrey did for Yes Man. After a few of the comedian’s films underperformed at the box office he effectively “owned” a piece of the film – giving him over $30 million and profits from the film in perpetuity.
Which brings us to Cruise’s pulling power.
While many critics will tell you that Cruise’s day as a box office titan are over, they’re telling something of a lie. Yes, the day of movie stars guaranteeing a huge opening weekend are over, but stars do guarantee audiences in the long run – and Cruise is no different.
Let's take Knight and Day as a case study. These days, you generally triple a film’s opening weekend to get its grand total. While it’s not an exact science, it does give you a good yard stick with which to measure a film's play. Knight and Day opened to $20 million, meaning that people predicted that the film would probably top out at $60 million. So far the film has grossed just under $75 million, with maybe another few million dollars before it ends its run. While this is short of the movie's $100 million+ production budget, it is far from a flop. Knight and Day is also on course to crack $200 million internationally (M:I4’s magic green light figure) and through DVD and television sales, Knight and Day has gone from being a flop to a nice little earner for 20th Century Fox. Cruise’s previous film Valkyrie had a similar play out. That film opened to $21 million, an $83 million total gross and $200 million on the international playing field. Not the signs of a man who can’t carry a picture.
Can Cruise open a film like he once could? No he can’t – but no one can in this day and age. The Clooneys, Pitts, Fords of this world don’t guarantee the first weekend drawing power that they once had. It could be that audiences prefer spectacle over stars, with special effects being more popular than movie stars, or it could be a world that it saturated with just too much media. Today, stars like Cruise do draw attention to their films, and ideally pull in audiences in the long run. Yes, Cruise’s couch jumping antics in 2005 , while promoting War of The Words may have hurt his image, but the man still has fourteen $100 million+ grossing films under his belt, and a box office batting average of $95 million, over the course of a 25 year career. That’s pretty good going on all accounts.
While it may appear that Hollywood is outwardly telling Cruise that “he’s finished,” they’re not. What they are doing is trying to get a high grade product at a reduced rate. It’s like going into a store to buy a big brand item and saying to the sales person, “I can get a product similar to that cheaper down the street.” It’s accurate, but you really want that brand name item but you’re still hoping for a discount! That’s just what Paramount is doing with Cruise.
Keep reading Screen Rant for more Mission: Impossible 4 news.