Dark Universe’s first hurdle: The Mummy box office tanks
Monday - 12/06/2017 12:14
WELL, that’s not the result Universal wanted.
After investing an estimated $450 million in Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster, The Mummy, the studio is going to be pretty dismayed at its first weekend results.
The monster epic pulled in a mere $42 million ($US32.2 million) over its opening weekend in the US, well behind Wonder Woman’s second weekend takings of $75.9 million ($US57.2 million). Globally, The Mummy made a more respectable $188 million ($US142 million) but is still below expectations considering it opened simultaneously in 60 territories across 48,000 screens.
The floppy box office results jibe with the scathing critical and audience reaction to the rebooted The Mummy. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movies’ critics score is a woeful 17 per cent while even the audience score on RT (usually much more forgiving) is languishing at 45.
And the film’s CinemaScore (exit polling from US movie audiences) is a B-, which may have been a perfectly fine grade for year 9 geography, but spells doom for a blockbuster.
The movie made even less in its first weekend than the Brendan Fraser Mummyfranchise from 18 years ago which ultimately made around $US1.5 billion over four movies.
Tonally confused, badly written and grossly underwhelming, The Mummy was designed to kick off the Dark Universe franchise — a shared movie universe for classic movie monsters. Universal had big hopes for it and spent massive cash on promoting it with huge publicity stunts and flying Tom Cruise around the world, which included a visit to Australia.
In trying to place the blame for the failure, some have pointed the finger at Tom Cruise, positing that the ageing movie star is not the audience draw he used to be. But that theory would ignore 2015’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, which made back four-fold its budget at the box office despite being the fifth outing on a film franchise that began life in 1996.
The other popular theory is that a 21st century audience isn’t enamoured with the idea of revisiting old school monsters, that they had moved on to franchises brimming with high-tech superheroes and shiny cars.
The Dark Universe franchise was supposed to be a big money spinner in a movie-going era dominated by franchises including the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney’s rebooted live action fairy tales, DC Extended Universe, Star Wars, the Fast and the Furious movies and the Harry Potter spin-offs.
The Mummy was the first of an already planned seven movies.
The studio’s ambitious plan was to successfully revive its iconic creature features from the early years of moving pictures which included Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein, both made in 1931. The original monster flicks ran for decades, from the mid-1920s to 1960.
Russell Crowe’s Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde was an important supporting character in The Mummy, grounding this first film in the wider Dark Universe world, hinting at numerous crossovers throughout the films.
The next planned Dark Universe movie is Bride of Frankenstein, to be directed by Bill Condon who’s fresh off the runaway box office success of the live-action Beauty and the Beast. While no casting has been confirmed yet, Angelina Jolie is one of the actors rumoured to be in negotiations for the lead role.
The other films planned are Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Invisible Man, Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein and Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Javier Bardem has already signed on to play Frankenstein’s monster and Johnny Depp is slated to be the Invisible Man. Depp’s casting in a massive franchise seems questionable at this time given his off-screen controversies ranging from accusations of spousal abuse to reports of diva antics, but he likely remains popular in other international markets.
But none of this is going to be cheap thanks to the commanding salaries of its marquee stars and the effects-laden genre. With The Mummy’s price tag coming in at over $450 million, seven similarly budgeted films could easily run over $3 billion in production and marketing costs.
After the caning The Mummy just got at the US domestic box office, it’s all starting to unravel and Universal will be feeling much less confident about its maybe-not-so-lucrative franchise today.