How Tom Cruise Saved Hollywood

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol rescued a lackluster season.

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Many Hollywood prognosticators were all doom and gloom going into the big holiday movie weekend, as box office has been down this year, especially the last few weeks, with underwhelming bows for the new Sherlock Holmes and Oscar shoo-in Alvin & the Chimpmunks: Chipwrecked. But hark, what light from yonder distant Xenu planet breaks? Why it's old Tom Cruise, here to save the day after we'd long ago counted him out.

Yes, Cruise's (and, OK, Skydance's and Paramount's and director Brad Bird's) Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol roared onto the scene over the past week, taking in $46 million over the holiday weekend, for a total of $78 million domestically and a sweet $140 million abroad. This could easily end up being a half-a-billion-dollar picture right here, something many folks, including us maybe, thought no longer possible for a Tom Cruise film. We had good evidence too, as his recent Knight and Day tanked and even the last film in this franchise, Mission: Impossible 3, half-fizzled five years ago. But maybe a long wait was all audiences needed, as this one is stomping through the multiplexes, riding a raft of good reviews and high audience praise. At this rate the movie is on track to top $200 million in the States and probably some $600 million overall, as international box office receipts continue to grow and grow and grow every year.

But, again, domestically, which is all we really care about right, the year is looking slightly less grim than people had originally thought. Sure receipts overall are down about 3% from last year, but holiday tallies are up almost 10% and even those under-performing flicks from last week, Sherlock and Chipwrecked, surged over the holiday. (All top three films were sequels -- in fact, a sequel, a threequel, and a fourquel. Make of that what you will.) The rest of the week is basically the busiest of the moviegoing year, so things could just keep earning and earning straight through to 2012 (when everything, everywhere ends in a flood of fire and poison water, we're told). Elsewhere, the terrific family film War Horse opened well on about a thousand fewer screens than its big competitors and should trot along (get it, "trot," because the movie is about a horse?) well throughout the week as parents and/or nannies tire of kids screaming and send them to the movies to get them out of the house.

Fox is likely hoping that some War Horse screenings are sold out, so people will have to go see We Bought a Zoo, which opened in sixth place for the weekend with a disappointing $15 million. Matt Damon's nearly unbroken string of non-successes continues here, though, honestly, that a movie called We Bought a Zoo earned any millions of dollars should be considered a miracle. (We were hoping for "No One Bought We Bought a Zoo" headlines.) Though he's almost a decade younger, Damon still can't compete with the thundering science-fire of Tom Cruise.

We're glad to see Cruise back on top again, swooping in to rescue a town that had all but forsaken him. Really the only bad news about M:I GP's success is that it encourages co-financier Skydance Productions and its ridiculous owner David Ellison, the billionaire scion who was practically run out of town for making duds like Flyboys (in which he costarred, terribly). He then threw tens of millions of dollars at the problem and was allowed to get back in the game. But hey, if it takes some doofusy money to get a good, successful picture off the ground, then so be it. Happy holidays, Tinseltown!

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.