The weirdest entertainment news out of this weekend wasn’t Kevin Spacey’s stilted attempt at a Billy Crystal-style opener while hosting the Tonys, with its copious coming-out-of-the-closet jokes. It wasn’t even the continued awesome insanity of “Twin Peaks.” It was this: “The Mummy,” the Tom Cruise-led mega-franchise-starter, is a bomb — and a hit. Let us explain.
In its homeland of America, “The Mummy” opened well behind “Wonder Woman”’s second week, only raking in $32 million to “WW”s $57 million. That’s a near-“King Arthur”-level upset, especially since Deadline has reported its budget at over $300 million. It hurts doubly because it was the maiden voyage of the “Dark Universe,” in which Universal, hungry for its own tangled “cinematic universe,” raided its intellectual property closet and came back with an armful of old monster movies: “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “The Invisible Man” and, yes, “The Mummy.” This first film even introduced its own Nick Fury in the form of Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, so sure execs were that audiences would welcome a potential decades’ worth of interlocking creature features.
So, the “Dark Universe” is DOA, right? (Or should that be “dead again,” seeing that no one saw “Dracula Untold,” the initial would-be franchise-starter, either, back in 2014?) Improbably, perhaps not! Because while “The Mummy” couldn’t get arrested in the U.S., it was a cash magnet just about everywhere else. In China, audiences welcomed it with open arms, i.e., $18.7 million — the highest ever opening for a Tom Cruise movie, in China. It saw record showings in Russia, too. By the end of the weekend, 33 international markets had handed it a total of $142 million — Cruise’s biggest global opening since 2005’s “War of the Worlds.” (It should be noted: That’s not adjusted for inflation.)
And so Universal finds itself in an awkward position: Do they proceed as planned, cranking out “The Phantom of the Opera” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “The Bride of Frankenstein” as though the second weekend of “Wonder Woman” hadn’t felled it like a German soldier? Or do they cancel a series that everyone but America thinks is hot stuff? Perhaps the “Dark Universe” will wind up with a similar fate as “Pacific Rim” or “Warcraft” — two other movies that made considerably more abroad than they did at home, sparking serious sequel talk for a movie Yanks don’t much care for. Such is the fun of a brave new world in which Hollywood has to think globally, not just domestically.
Either way, at least Americans can always feel smug about this: “The Mummy” is a bad movie, and we treated it like a bad movie. Still, turns out voting with your dollars in Hollywood is a lot like voting in a presidential election: No matter what happens, the bad guy wins.