Tom Cruise bounced back at the box office this weekend as the sci-fi adventure “Oblivion” rocketed to No. 1 in its U.S. debut with an estimated $38 million haul.
"Oblivion" was the only new wide release and easily topped last week’s No. 1 film, the Jackie Robinson biopic "42," which took in $18 million. DreamWorks Animation’s "The Croods" was third with $9.5 million in its fifth week, and upped its overall domestic total to $154 million. Focus Features expanded its Ryan Gosling-Bradley Cooper drama "Place Beyond the Pines" from 514 to 1,542 theaters and it brought in $4.7 million, good for sixth place.
Universal's futuristic saga, directed by Joseph Kosinski and co-starring Morgan Freeman, did a little better than analysts projected. "Oblivion" received a soft "B-" CinemaScore from audiences at a market-high 3,783 theaters; the more than 300 Imax screens brought in $5.5 million. But it came into its U.S. debut with momentum, having grossed $61 million in its international rollout last weekend and it added another $33.7 million overseas this weekend.
"Oblivion" proved just the ticket for Cruise, who spent much of last year in the tabloids after a high-profile divorce from Katie Holmes and was coming off two lackluster box-office outings.
Cruise’s “Oblivion” opening is better than the combined debuts of his two films from last year – “Rock of Ages” ($14.4 million) and “Jack Reacher” ($15.2 million). And it’s his best since 2006’s “Mission: Impossible III,” which took in $47 million in its first three days.
Universal’s marketing unit hit its demographic target, which was older males. Audiences, which were 57 percent men and 74 percent older than 25, cited Cruise as the primary reason they went.
“He did a great job in the film,” Universal’s head of distribution Nikki Rocco told TheWrap Sunday, “and he worked very hard to promote it.” She saw any baggage from Cruise’s turbulent personal life as a non-factor. “Divorce is not unusual in Hollywood.”
Cruise was a major box office force between 2000 and 2006, when he reeled off seven straight $100 million movies. But since then, only 2011’s “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” has made that much domestically.
Sci-fi seems to be a sweet spot for the action star. "Oblivion" is just his third venture into the genre, but “Minority Report” made $132 million in 2002 and “War of the Worlds” brought in $234 million in 2005.
Rocco said she expected "Oblivion" to play strongly over the next couple of weeks, at least until Disney's "Iron Man 3" lands on May 3.
"This movie, particularly the ending, gets you talking and I think that's going to help," she said.
The next two weeks, especially abroad, will likely determine whether we'll see a sequel to "Oblivion," which has a $120 million production budget. It's taken in more than $150 million in two weeks globally.
The Weinstein Co.'s horror spoof "Scary Movie 5' brought in $6.2 million and finished in fourth place in its second week. Paramount's "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" was fifth and raised its overall domestic total to $111 million with a $5.7 million fourth week.
Film District's thriller "Olympus Has Fallen" followed with $4.5 million for the weekend and has rolled up nearly $89 million in five weeks. Two movies in their third week — Sony's "Evil Dead" and Universal's 3D re-release of "Jurassic Park" — were next, each with around $4 million.
Disney's "Oz the Great and Powerful" rounded out the top 10 with $3 million, and raised its overall domestic total to $223 million after seven weeks.
Roughly 15 theaters in the Boston area were closed on Friday due to the manhunt for suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings. The overall box office was down about 20 percent from last year's comparable weekend, when "Think Like a Man" led the way with $33 million.