Shared from the 2017-06-12 Chattanooga eEdition

Box Office

‘Wonder Woman’ buries ‘The Mummy’



Chris Pine, left, and Gal Gadot appear in “Wonder Woman.”

Blame the inexperienced director, Alex Kurtzman, for delivering a mess of a movie. Scratch that: Fault Universal for settling on a script that emphasized action over characters and campy fun. Actually, perhaps a baggage-laden Tom Cruise was the problem. Or was it the horror-based marketing campaign?

All of the above?

Whatever the reasons -- some analysts also pointed to the continued strength of “Wonder Woman,” which remained No. 1 in its second weekend, collecting about $57.2 million — “The Mummy” arrived to just $32.2 million in North American ticket sales. That was a disappointing start for a film that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make and market and was supposed to stir excitement for Universal’s coming cavalcade of monster-movie remakes.

“The Mummy,” to be followed by new versions of “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Invisible Man” and “The Creature From the Black Lagoon,” among others, received abysmal reviews. Ticket buyers were similarly underwhelmed, according to CinemaScore exit polls giving it a B-minus. The film has a dismal 17 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Universal could still point to strong ticket sales internationally, where “The Mummy” grossed $141.8 million in 63 territories, including $52.2 million in China. According to Universal, it’s the biggest worldwide opening for Cruise. His star power now shines brightest overseas, where audiences have been more forgiving of the actor’s baggage.

Universal distribution executives acknowledging the North American gross left something to be desired. But should there be any doubt, it’s still full-steam ahead for the Dark Universe. Johnny Depp is already signed up to play the Invisible Man, as is Javier Bardem to play Frankenstein’s Monster. “Beauty and the Beast” director Bill Condon is set to helm “Bride of Frankenstein.”

Duncan Clark, president of international distribution for Universal, played down the connective tissue between “The Mummy” and future Dark Universe releases.

“The array of titles available for us and the talent we have coming on board for the ones coming up, they all have to operate as an individual title,” said Clark. “We’re looking forward to Bill Condon’s movie. We’re looking forward to any number of the ones in the group. I don’t think one can look at any one film that has an influence on the 10 that we could possibly do.”

Universal has grown enormous franchises from humble beginnings before, most notably with the now dominant and never-ending “Fast and the Furious” movies. The success of “Wonder Woman” — now with $435 million globally — also points to a studio (Warner Bros.) pivoting after a poor response to previous DC Comics releases (“Suicide Squad,” ”Batman v. Superman”).

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, said “The Mummy” opening showed the challenge of launching a franchise with North American audiences, who are more deterred by bad reviews.

“The Dark Universe has to start somewhere,” said Dergarabedian. “It’s worth pursuing because the creative possibilities are endless. Lessons are learned from every movie. I don’t think this debut in North America should deter them from moving forward.”

Other studios have overcome similar challenges. Warner’s efforts to build an interconnected superhero “universe,” for instance, got off to a weak start. A shift in approach — and executives — resulted in “Wonder Woman,” a runaway critical and commercial hit.

“Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins, has earned $205 million domestically in two weeks, but its box-office reign is all but certain to end next weekend when Pixar’s “Cars 3” opens.

Writer-director Trey Edward Shults’ “It Comes at Night” aimed for more discerning horror fans. His thriller, one of the widest openings yet for “Moonlight” distributor A24, sold a modest $6 million in tickets. That was less than most analysts expected for the well-reviewed film, starring Joel Edgerton. But “It Comes at Night” also only cost $5 million to make.

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