The Mummy underperformed even at the more modest expectations, pulling in only $31.6M and garnering the poorest reviews among the summer blockbusters so far.
Why: God, where to begin? The warning signs were everywhere.
The Concept – In an effort to build their own interconnected monster-based “Dark Universe,” Universal made the unwise decision of attempting to launch it with the one Universal monster that had been recently played out in their own popular Brendan Fraser film trilogy. Audiences simply were indifferent to more of the same. Also, and I keep going back to it: There are pitfalls involved in announcing your franchise before audience demand has been established. Universal made a big deal about this “Dark Universe” (the film even features a LOGO for it!) even though there is no evidence audiences will turn out for it. When you get cockily ambitious about an iffy franchise, it can tend to implode before it begins (I’m looking at you, PAN, POWER RANGERS and KING ARTHUR).
Tom Cruise – Let’s face it – outside the MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE films, Cruise is pretty consistent with his box office openings. Films centered around him tend to open in the $15-$25M range, and that’s fine, but not great. To be fair, his films containing an alien/supernatural element (WAR OF THE WORLDS, OBLIVION, EDGE OF TOMORROW) open a little bit higher, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Adding him to the mix may have added intrigue at first, but in the months leading up to the film the lack of excitement around CRUISE/MUMMY was noticeable, and audiences could tell this was not something special (he seemed to do more enthusiastic press for his lackluster JACK REACHER sequel last year…). Add in the marketing, which featured a ton of him up front, but downplayed him as they approached release date, and you had a film that wasn’t sure how much they wanted to commit to their star.
Mummies – The Brendan Fraser films opened to $43M, $68M, and $40M respectively. THE SCORPION KING opened to $36M. Are you seeing a trend here? This franchise has a $40M average opening (not counting the second film, which was highly anticipated and riding the goodwill of the popular first film and therefore is a bit of an anomaly), and that’s pretty much the range that could be expected for this one, especially considering MUMMY 3 closed on a franchise low both critically and financially and there was nothing in the years since that suggested renewed interest in the concept. Changing the gender of the mummy felt like a studio choice rather than a creative one (shades of TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES), and having your central female character a screaming banshee who is chained up and tortured for long stretches of your film was not appealing to audiences in this summer of WONDER WOMAN. Which brings us to…
As predicted, the superhero film held up well (an encouraging 43% drop) with a strong $58.5M second weekend, and positive word of mouth eclipsed any interest in MUMMY shenanigans. Diana faces some tough competition in the coming weeks (cars, minions, transformers and one friendly neighborhood spider-man will give her a run for her money), but the continued goodwill and enthusiasm for the film will carry her to a final gross that should rival or surpass those of her DC Universe counterparts to date. Universal could not have predicted the sheer amount of WW enthusiasm, but their timing couldn’t have been worse.
17% Rotten Tomatoes – If the film had been critically acclaimed, with upbeat word of mouth, we likely would have seen a $5-$10M bump in the weekend’s take. Sadly, it’s 17% RT score is a low across the board: Lower than Universal’s 2014 monster attempt DRACULA UNTOLD, lower than all but the third previous MUMMY films (and SCORPION KING), lower than any of the 2017 summer tentpoles to date (lower than even KING ARTHUR, BAYWATCH, and PIRATES) and lowest of Tom Cruise’s entire filmography if you don’t count the cult bad-movie favorite COCKTAIL. With all the other factors in play, it was never going to open HUGE, but if it had been good it would have at least had a chance to hold its own in the upcoming weeks. As it stands, it has 0% chance of making back its $125M budget domestically.
The upside: Even though the film will be lucky to finish with $70M in the US, overseas it is a smash hit and has already begun to turn a profit for the studio. The US failure would normally be the end of any future “Dark Universe” films, but the overseas success might just convince them to try once more with another property.
IT COMES AT NIGHT
The weekend’s only other “major” release was this critically acclaimed indie horror flick. It’s hard to really analyze this, because at $5.9M it didn’t do well by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly doesn’t have the breakout indie horror buzz of a film like IT FOLLWS, THE WITCH or YOU’RE NEXT, but it performed in line with most expectations and should more than double its $5M budget by the end of the summer run without really being noticed.
There was one more weekend “also-ran,” featuring the true story of an American soldier and her dog. If you even knew this film came out over the weekend, you were the targeted demo, as marketing reach was low, and audience interest was minimal. Inexplicably opening in 1950+ theaters, its $3.8M gross suggests this would have been better as a VOD exclusive, or an art house release.