Weekend box office: ‘Knight’s out

knight.jpgWave buh-bye. I guess it's official: Tom Cruise is no longer a box office guarantee. While "Knight and Day" is arguably the exact sort of vehicle audiences want to see the actor in -- lots of bang-bang and cocky grins -- the action-comedy quickly tanked, taking in a mere $28 million since its release last Wednesday and $20 million over the weekend proper. That puts it under not only the still poppin'-fresh "Toy Story 3," the weekend leader with $59 million (and a total two-week US gross of $227 million) but under an Adam Sandler moron-comedy, for pity's sakes. That's right, "Grown Ups" made $41 million on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, twice as much as "Knight" did in the same time period.

The per-theater averages are even more striking. "Toy Story 3" is still pulling in audiences to the tune of $14,000 per theater in its second week, while "Grown Ups" also cracked the 10K barrier with an $11,600 PTA. "Knight and Day"? $6,617 per theater, shockingly low for a movie with this much star megawattage. What went wrong? Box Office Mojo blames the movie's marketing campaign for not making it clear that this was funny-haha Tom, not funny-weird Tom. Perhaps. Maybe comedy is not this star's strong suit? Tell that to the audiences who roared at "Tropic Thunder." I think we're finally seeing a fundamental shift in Cruise's once-omnipotent drawing power. "Knight" has only two things to sell: genre and stars. Of those stars, Cruise has always been the gold standard and now, it seems, no one's interested buying as much.

Ah, well, it was a good run while it lasted -- 24 years from 1986's "Top Gun" to this. And it's possible that Cruise's choices may get really interesting as he absorbs his new position as Adam Sandler's whipping boy.

If we're playing the PTA game, then Jonah Hill psycho-momma's-boy comedy "Cyrus" was the weekend's winner, expanding to 17 theaters from 4 and pulling in a nice $17K per. Also performing strongly in art-house land was the Afghanistan platoon documentary "Restrepo," which opens in Boston this Friday on a raft of great reviews: $30,000 at two theaters in NYC and LA. Actually, the Oliver Stone doc "South of the Border" played one theater (in New York) and made $21K, highest of the week, but the screenings benefitted from a personal appearance by Stone and other parties involved with the film, so it's not really apples and apples. I'd be curious to know if and how they responded to the Times' expected assault on the movie and its way with facts. Here's a rebuttal to the rebuttal; I haven't seen "South of the Border" yet so can't weigh in, but I do hope it's a lot less moony-eyed than "Comandante," Stone's 2003 sit-down with Fidel Castro.

More box office numbers from Box Office Mojo and Movie City News.

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