“The Mummy” has been buried.
This weekend, Universal’s latest opened at No. 2 domestically behind the second weekend of “Wonder Woman.” With Tom Cruise in the lead, the revival was poised to be a beat-the-heat, popcorn-flinging summer blockbuster, a nostalgia grab for millennial fans of the 1999 title, and the launchpad for the studio’s “Dark Universe” of monster movies.
With $174 million worldwide, “The Mummy” is far from the summer’s biggest flop. But the breakdown — $32.2 million domestic, $141.8 international — indicates that whatever “The Mummy” is selling, American audiences aren’t really buying.
What happened? Here are five takeaways that might do some of the explaining:
“Wonder Woman” is the movie of the moment
Between its first and second weekends, “Wonder Woman” saw only a 45% drop in ticket sales. That’s a feat matched by only a handful of superhero movies including “Batman Begins” in 2005, “Spider-Man” in 2002, and “The Amazing Spider-Man” in 2012. “Wonder Woman” is a critical and commercial success that has succeeded on essentially every measure, including being the most tweeted-about movie of the year so far. “The Mummy” simply couldn’t cut through the cultural zeitgeist in the same way.
Tom Cruise star power plays … overseas
Ah, the elusive “movie star.” Despite the obituaries and postmortems written about the term, it gets tossed around and attributed to Cruise to this day. Still, “The Mummy” continues a trend that Cruise is more bankable overseas than he is domestically. Cruise has been far from a sure thing lately in the U.S. — “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” and “Edge of Tomorrow” both opened to lower domestic totals than “The Mummy.” But those two recent releases ended up making $100 million and $270 million respectively at international markets. With his bankability overseas, it’s no question why Cruise is a prized possession for studios, but at least in the U.S., his star has dimmed.
Those gosh darn critics
Whether it be fan rebellion with “Suicide Squad” or studio attribution with “Baywatch,” critic aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes have become increasingly scrutinized for being reductive. “The Mummy” was the latest summer blockbuster hit with a rotten rating, this time 17%. This weekend, the aggregators did not possess the ability to save. A24’s “It Comes At Night” and Bleecker Street’s “Megan Leavey” both performed below expectations despite having critical support (86% and 80% respectively on Rotten Tomatoes). Exactly how much those sour ratings contributed to “The Mummy’s” overall box office total is up for debate, but it’s safe to say the conversation continues.
The “Dark Universe” hasn’t caught on yet
Universal has signed on big name talent like Cruise and Johnny Depp to headline its “Dark Universe” slate, a way to relaunch the monster movies on which the studio was built. The studio argues that, rather than comparing the movies to a Marvel or DC Comics universe, the public should consider each project as its own entity, but under the umbrella of a common genre. Perhaps it will be “The Bride of Frankenstein,” slated for 2019 with Bill Condon attached to direct, that will spark the public’s interest in the universe. But “The Mummy’s” inauspicious launch just didn’t do the trick.
Another IP revival bites the dust
“Baywatch,” “Alien,” and now “The Mummy” — all three are nostalgia-tized franchises that have seen feature film revivals hit theaters this summer, and all three are also titles that have now underperformed or flopped at the box office, especially in North America. Three makes a trend, as they say, but add to that list “King Arthur” (not a franchise so much as a familiar property, but a similar idea) and “Pirates of the Caribbean” (“revived” is a stretch, but it had been six years since the last installment) and you have something larger at work. To be clear, this is not a brand new trend, but rather one that persists. Last summer saw “Ghostbusters,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” crumble. The year before, “Pan.”
If there’s one theme this summer’s box office has doubled down on so far, it’s that superhero movies still work — at least for now. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” was the first (and only) big hit of the summer until “Wonder Woman” came along. Beyond that, things get murky. The answer to the industry’s thirst for bankable originality is a billion dollar one. But, for now, it’s apparent that many of these retreads are worn.