Lessons From The Box Office: Is Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One a Flop?

Recently, Paramount revealed that Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning Par One received a $71 million payout from its insurer due to delays in production because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this helps push the costly sequel closer to breakeven, it has raised a question mark over the already delayed Part Two. To be clear, there’s no doubt that Paramount will complete production on Dead Reckoning Part Two once the strikes are concluded, but Paramount will be keen to keep the budget down. On a side note, the title is too long, folks.

At the time of writing, Mission Impossible 7 has grossed $568 million worldwide against an estimated production budget of $291 million. As usual, that’s before marketing costs, so this sequel needed to hit $600-650 million to hit breakeven. Mission Impossible 7 has grossed around 1.9X its budget theatrically; it hits digital and home entertainment next month, so reaching that all-important breakeven point is well within grasp. Be that as it may, studios don’t fork out hundreds of millions of dollars to break even; well, in the case of The Flash, and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (I had a good time with that movie, there I said it) Warner Bros and Disney would have loved to breakeven, they dream about those films breaking even only to wake from that dream to the harsh reality that they both lost sickening amounts of cash.

The previous Mission Impossible instalment, Fallout, grossed a franchise-best $791 million; that sequel infamously caused the previously believed to be indestructible Tom Cruise to break his ankle during a take of a stunt. A nine-week hiatus from filming as Cruise rested might have added a chunk of change to the budget, but once again, their insurance company paid up, keeping the budget to a respectable (for a major blockbuster) $178 million. Whenever a Mission Impossible movie is in production, there is a very nervous insurance company somewhere in the world.

We’ve seen dips in franchises like Fast and Furious, which has yet to get close to the success of previous installments. 7 and 8 clocked over $1 billion, 9 and 10 bottomed out at $700 million. Mission and Fast and Furious have a lot in common: both franchises are over 20 years old, they have gigantic budgets, and both Fast X and M:I 7 ended on a cliffhanger, or to be more specific, just stopped happening.

M:I 7 is by no means a massive flop, but it would also be untrue to dub it a success. It had the unfortunate timing of opening ten days before Barbenheimer took over everything. Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer played in a record number of IMAX screens for a record-breaking engagement that saw just over 30% of its box office generated from IMAX. Great news for Nolan, IMAX, and Universal, but not so good for M:I 7 as it lost most of its IMAX screens and hoped to get some of them back after Oppenheimer concluded its run. That didn’t happen as Nolan’s film (which was shot on IMAX cameras) kept playing to packed houses weekly.

Perhaps the lesson here is an old one that Hollywood needs to learn every few years. Overestimating audiences’ appetite for something, Disney has done this with Marvel, Pirates and Star Wars. As there are so many Avatar sequels (scientists have yet to determine how many), I just can’t see all of them landing blockbuster box office numbers. Warner Bros with the soon-to-be-departed DCEU, and Universal with their short-lived Dark Universe that crashed and burned after the Tom Cruise-led The Mummy. You just had to release that picture, didn’t you, Universal? What picture, you say? This one!

Before I get too sidetracked about the above photographic evidence of a studio being far too cocky that this would be a massive franchise, let’s get back to wrapping this up with some kind of point. Summer 2023 has been a record-breaking few months for cinemas; Barbie and Oppenheimer brought people back to the big screen in a way we haven’t seen since before the pandemic. However, there were plenty of misfires; even the once-golden egg that was Marvel Studios experienced a full-blown flop with the recent Ant-Man and The Wasp sequel. Warner Bros and Disney have likely endured the worst and best of years so far; Barbie is the biggest movie of the year, but The Flash, Shazam: The Fury of the Gods, Blue Beetle, and even The Meg 2 under-performed domestically (yet robust international box office of more than $300 million is enough to call it a hit).

Meanwhile, Disney struggled this year with Ant-Man and The Wasp 3, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, The Haunted Mansion, The Little Mermaid, and very nearly Elemental. The latter is the latest Disney/Pixar offering, which started with the worst opening weekend for a Pixar release, yet against the odds, Elemental went on to gross more than $150 million domestically and more than $330 million internationally. $484 million might be poor for a Pixar title, but it could have been much worse. Only in the film industry can something make nearly $600 million worldwide and be considered a disappointment.

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