Instead of being a strong launch title to their “Dark Universe” series, Universal has been left relying on overseas markets to help push “The Mummy” into the black.
The $160 million Tom Cruise action film made $141.8 million from 63 international markets, scoring No. 1 in 46 of them. But in the United States, it is facing a disappointing opening of $32.2 million, a distant second to the $57.2 million “Wonder Woman” posted in its second weekend. With 20 months to go until the next “Dark Universe” film, “Bride of Frankenstein,” hits theaters, Universal will need to make adjustments after this bad start.
So what caused “The Mummy” to unravel in the States yet save face beyond our borders? Here are some reasons:
1.) “Wonder Woman”
“The Mummy” was able to gain interest internationally despite facing heavy competition in the form of Warner Bros.’ latest DC film, but in the U.S., “Wonder Woman” and its success have dominated pop culture since its release last week.
Between the excitement of comic book fans to see a critically acclaimed DC film after the disappointment of “Batman v Superman” and “Suicide Squad” last year and the desire among female moviegoers to see the most famous female superhero get her moment in the spotlight, there was little chance for “The Mummy” to gain traction against such a hit.
A brutal Rotten Tomatoes score of 17 percent and a B- CinemaScore sealed the film’s fate. As we’ve seen with the numbers “Pirates 5” and “Baywatch,” audiences are very quick to drop a movie off their must-see list if initial reception is poor.
2.) Tom Cruise
Cruise hasn’t exactly been a box office magnet in the U.S. recently outside of the “Mission: Impossible” series.
However, he is still a major draw internationally. “The Mummy” was no exception, as Cruise posted his highest opening weekend ever in 26 markets. In addition, the $141.8 million international bow passes “War of the Worlds” for the biggest overseas start to any Tom Cruise film… though that comes with a caveat.
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3.) Weak marketing
While Cruise was heavily promoted overseas to capitalize on his popularity with foreign audiences, his presence in domestic promotional material was far less. The image most often used on posters and billboards for the film was that of the face of Sofia Boutella’s Princess Ahmanet, with her pale complexion, facial markings and double pupils in each eye.
But that face, while eerie, does little to convey the film’s plot or Cruise’s role in the movie. The film’s trailers and TV spots also did a poor job of conveying the plot. As seen with movies like “Ghost in the Shell” and “King Arthur,” struggling to convey plot can lead to audiences losing interest.
4.) Lack of identity
Beyond conveying the plot, the promotion for “The Mummy” conveyed the feeling that this movie had a serious identity crisis. It was not going to be a straight horror film, like the original Boris Karloff “Mummy” film it was modernizing, nor would it have the campy feel of the Brendan Fraser “Mummy” films (all of which, incidentally, had higher opening weekends than this movie). Instead, it was a large-scale blockbuster action film that critics panned for lacking a sense of direction.
This identity crisis is even more problematic when you consider that it was meant to start a new cinematic universe for Universal, with Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll leading a secret organization that would take on modern versions of Universal’s classic monsters. Warner Bros. and Legendary are taking a similar approach with King Kong and Godzilla in their “MonsterVerse” series, but that venture wasn’t announced until 2015, a year after the “Godzilla” film that would be the first installment of the series was released. Universal, by contrast, announced “Dark Universe” before audiences had even seen the start of the series with “The Mummy.”
By putting the cart before the horse, Universal has risked giving moviegoers a bad first impression of this series. Fortunately, with “Beauty and the Beast” director Bill Condon onboard to direct “Bride of Frankenstein,” there’s still time for “Dark Universe” to rebound.
5.) Big global rollout
While the $52 million opening in China is solid for “The Mummy,” it is still lower than the $71.6 million opening set in that market earlier this year by WB and Legendary’s “Kong: Skull Island,” another monster movie that is part of a cinematic universe.
Back when “War of the Worlds” was released in 2005, China was not the box office juggernaut it is today. In fact, China didn’t even get a release for that film until six weeks after the U.S., something that would be unheard of for a blockbuster release in 2017. Cruise may have helped this film’s fortunes with his star power, but the increased power of developing overseas markets also helped make this opening weekend a career record for him.