Indiana Jones 5, Mission: Impossible 7 will both make money not lose it, but that’s not good clickbait

Indiana Jones and the Dial Of Destiny
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The new Indiana Jones and Mission: Impossible films have both fallen slightly short of box office expectations – but neither is going to lose a lot of money.

Earlier this week, Variety posted a story about the box office performances of two of this summer’s big sequels. The films in question? Indiana Jones & The Dial Of Destiny, and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part I. Both films cost some $300m to realise and market, and neither has made quite the level of money that Disney and Paramount Pictures respectively would have wanted.

As such, Variety’s report is a considered look at the struggle for the pair to make a profit off the back of their respective theatrical runs. Indiana Jones sits at $375m worldwide, and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part I has a gross of $523m.

The thinking is that, on their respective theatrical releases, each is likely to lose their parent company around $100m.

However, read the state of the online clickbait that’s been generated from this report, and you’d think the pair of them were disastrous, and leaving Disney and Paramount cancelling their respective Christmas parties. I’m not naming outlets, but some have turned this into blockbusters that will both lose lots of money, and won’t turn a profit.

Never let the actual facts get in the way.

Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part I

Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning Part I

In days of old, the cinema release was increasingly seen as the trailer for the home formats debut of a movie. A cinema ticket, after all, is sliced up so many ways that the actual studio that made the movie generally gets a minority of the money. In the era of billion dollar grosses, that’s shifted, but still: the bigger profit margins are when a film hits physical media, streaming, hotels, airlines, and so on. Less total cash, but a hell of a lot more margin.

Furthermore, films don’t suddenly disappear after a quarterly earnings report from a major studio. Indiana Jones & The Dial Of Destiny will, to just use that as an example, be part of a boxset of films for all time. Over 25 years on, people still buy or rent copies of Batman & Robin so that they can ‘complete the set’, and it’s a movie that’s comfortably earned a profit over time for Warner Bros, just as the new Indy film will for Disney. Even if you didn’t like Indy 5, there’s still going to be eyeballs on it for decades to come. And that’s continually going to flow money into the Disney coffers.

On top of that, these are sequels. The release and noise around a new sequel reignites interest in the earlier films in the boxset, so they benefit too. Studios lean on franchises and sequels for a reason. It makes the whole pot bigger.

Since Hollywood got taken over by corporate entities rather than being run by filmmakers, we’ve seen a procession of films damned by quarterly earnings reports. I remember films such as John Carter, Tomorrowland and The Lone Ranger being branded as flops by the film media ecosystem, when Disney released quarterly profit warnings. That was it: the fact that they were all flops was etched in stone, and that was that.

But, of course, the films have kept earning. It’s just in that particularly three month period, they earned less money than had been forecast.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith has said in the past that he doesn’t believe the audience should worry about box office. It’s something for executives to worry about, and we at the end of the process get to simply enjoy the films.

I like that, but I don’t think it’s that simple. We’ve become accustomed to box office determining what we’re likely to see two years into the future. When Gladiator became a box office hit, all of a sudden if you had a screenplay with some fetching sandals and a bloody big sword, studios were interested again. Conversely, when something like Edge Of Tomorrow earns superb reviews but middling box office returns, it makes the long-mooted sequel a bit more difficult to get off the ground. We might not like it, but the previous financial success of movies is a determinant in certainly the decision making at higher film budgets.

Indiana Jones and the Dial Of Destiny

Indiana Jones and the Dial Of Destiny

Furthermore, box office is fleeting. There was a terrific film earlier this summer, Greatest Days, that should have been a solid British hit. Based around the music of Take That, it had a good release slot, that just happened to coincide with the first blast of hot weekend weather in the UK all year. Result? The box office was depleted, and the film’s cinema moment was all but gone, due to the sunshine.

In the case of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part I, it too hit a scheduling snag. That it arrived just a week or two before the Barbie and Oppenheimer double bill took over the narrative of blockbuster cinema. I think Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part I is a terrific blockbuster, and a genuinely exciting one. But its oxygen was taken away from it, as well as its IMAX screens. And that has an impact on how much money comes into the tills.

Does it make it a worse film? No. Will lots of people discover it on home release? Yes. Does that make a good headline? Well, you know.

One aside too that the detailed Variety article notes: both films accrued substantive budget swellings due to being filmed with extensive Covid protocols in place.

Thus, I do care a bit about box office. But what I don’t bother myself with is the silly suggestion that these two pictures have wreaked any kind of havoc on the two studios involved. And even if they had, we’re hardly talking Heaven’s Gate here. These are multi-billion dollar conglomerates, neither who whom will be cutting their CEO’s pay packet off the back of these movies.

I know that doesn’t make for compelling clickbait. I’m well aware this isn’t the article that’ll do zillions of hits and make us all rich. But sometimes, the actual facts do matter, don’t they?

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