Weekend box office: Tom Cruise and “Oblivion” open Big. But is Tom “back”?

tom-cruise-oblivionA very big Friday suggests that the Universal sci-fi thriller “Oblivion” overcame indifferent reviews to open at over $13 million, with a $40 million weekend within reach.
That’s impressive. The film has already earned almost $80 million overseas, which is why Universal opened it over there first. It’ll come close to breaking even, despite cost estimates ranging from $120-160 million. Figure it’ll be close to $50 by next weekend, make another $20 up against “Pain & Gain,” $85-90 US overall, with maybe $100 overseas.

What does this do for Tom Cruise? His “Jack Reacher” did $80 last Christmas. He’s not the draw he once was, and his quote has to be impacted by this ceiling in his films’ earning potential. Outside of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, he’s not a guy who can pull in $100 million on any film. The character roles and chancier action pictures (“Valkyrie” was one) seem to be back-burnered as he struggles to re-climb the mountain.

He will be 51 in July. Action stars fade when they clear 50 — Mel, Harrison, even Bruce. The “comebacks” of Sly and Harrison and Bruce and Arnold were temporary aberrations, built on old, revived franchises.  The last and least “Die Hard” didn’t hit $70. Not awful, but a mere shadow of the big hits of that series. Cruise has another Impossible Mission set up, and a bunch of generic action stuff in the works. Is this how he expects to stick around? He should push “Jack Reacher” as a franchise, find chewy character parts to fit in between the big paydays and think “Oscar consideration,” at least a little.

The Jackie Robinson bio-pic “42” did well again Friday, but Saturday will be more telling. Another $18-20 million? There’s a gamble — a period piece with few “name” stars, a baseball movie, a mid-April opening. It may end up earning $85 million+, all in.  By Monday AM, it’ll be in the low $50s.

Nothing else opened wide, with “The Lords of Salem” and “Home Run” only meriting limited release — lower than low expectations for those two.

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