Paramount's "Mission: Impossible 2" was saying, "mission accomplished" early Sunday morning.
"M:I-2" dominated Memorial Day weekend with an ESTIMATED $59 million in ticket sales from Friday through Sunday and $74 million for four days (Friday through Monday).
"M:I-2" easily out-performed the original 1996 "Mission." If the sequel comes in with a four-day gross of $74 million at 3,653 theaters ($20,257 per theater), it will be about 30% ahead of the first "Mission's" $56.8 million.
The sequel's ESTIMATED six-day cume (Wednesday-Monday) of $95 million is about 27% bigger than the original's $74.9 million, which also included Tuesday night previews.
Not surprisingly, "M:I-2's" per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide or limited release this weekend.
Speculation elsewhere that "M:I-2" would break or come close to breaking the $92.7 million record set over Memorial Day weekend 1997 by Universal and Amblin Entertainment's "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" was not well founded. Because "Lost World" opened on a Friday - and had preview showings Thursday night - its gross was for four days (or four and a half days if you count the previews as a separate day). "M:I-2," on the other hand, arrived on a Wednesday, making it virtually impossible for it to do $93 million for Friday through Monday.
About $21 million in must-see-it-first business went into the film's first two days, which would otherwise have been forced into its first weekend if it had opened Friday instead of Wednesday. Knowing that, Paramount wasn't thinking about topping "Lost World," but had its sights set on out-performing the original "Mission." The sequel did just that right from the get-go.
Nonetheless, this was a record-setting weekend thanks to "M:I-2." Early Sunday morning, it appeared that key films - those grossing at least $500,000 for the four days - were on their way to a Memorial Day record total of about $182.9 million. That would be up about 28% from the record of $142.9 million set the weekend of May 23-26, 1997, the weekend "Lost World" opened.
"It's phenomenal," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "It's running roughly 25% ahead of 'Mission' It's really strong to play that far ahead of the original."
Where is it heading? "Certainly, I think, it goes over $200 million," Lewellen replied. "With these projections, assuming they hold true or are relatively close, we should be at $95 million through six days and over $100 million the first seven days. We expect it to be over $200 million now."
The first "Mission" did $180.9 million domestically and $284 million internationally for a worldwide cume of $464.9 million.
The PG-13-rated action adventure sequel got off to a sizzling start last Wednesday with $12.5 million at a record-setting 3,653 theaters ($3,422 per theater). It took in another $8.5 million Thursday ($2,327 per theater), down just 32% from Wednesday. The original "Mission" had dropped 46% from Wednesday to Thursday -- $11.8 million vs. $6.3 million.
"M:I-2" went into the record books as the fourth-biggest Wednesday opening ever - behind 20th Century Fox's "Star Wars: Episode One - the Phantom Menace" with $28.5 million; Fox's "Independence Day" with $17.4 million; and Columbia's "Men In Black" with $14 million. "M:I-2" is the second-biggest Wednesday opening ever in the month of May, following "Phantom Menace."
Directed by John Woo, "M:I-2" was produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner through their Cruise/Wagner production company, which also produced the 1996 blockbuster "Mission: Impossible." Besides Cruise, the sequel stars Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Serbedzija and Ving Rhames. It was written by Robert Towne and executive produced by Terence Chang and Paul Hitchcock.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated computer animated feature "Dinosaur" was second in its second weekend with a still-sizable ESTIMATED $34.5 million (-18%) at 3,302 theaters (+45 theaters; $10,440 per theater). Its cume is approximately $82.9 million.
A Buena Vista spokesperson said Sunday morning that the studio would not be releasing estimates of its films' grosses for the holiday weekend until Monday morning. Estimates listed here for Buena Vista films are based on projections from other industry sources.
Insiders noted that the classic pattern for movies that open the weekend before a holiday weekend is for them to do about as much business over the four-day weekend as they did for the prior three-day weekend. "Dinosaur" opened to $38.9 million the weekend of May 19-21.
The holiday weekend's only other new arrival, Buena Vista/Touchstone and Spyglass Entertainment's PG-13-rated action comedy "Shanghai Noon," kicked off in third place to what Hollywood handicappers called very encouraging and better-than-expected ticket sales.
"Shanghai" estimates varied Sunday morning, but insiders speculated its four-day gross would be about $20.9 million at 2,711 theaters ($7,709 per theater).
"I understand 'Shanghai Noon' plays pretty well," one competing studio executive said Sunday morning. "Even if it opens to $17-18 million, you'd have to say they launched it pretty well and they've got a good sample out there. If word-of-mouth is good, they should do okay."
DreamWorks' R-rated action adventure "Gladiator" finished a solid fourth, holding up well in the face of "M:I-2's" powerful opening.
A DreamWorks spokesperson said Sunday morning that the studio was estimating "Gladiator" as having grossed $12.9 million for three days, a 35% drop, and $16.8 million for four days at 3,188 theaters (+147 theaters; $5,270 per theater) in its fifth week. Its cume is approximately $122.2 million, heading for $175-200 million in domestic theaters.
"Gladiator" is half owned by Universal, which is releasing it internationally.
DreamWorks' R-rated youth appeal comedy "Road Trip" finished fifth, down two notches in its second week. The studio said Sunday morning that it was estimating "Trip" as having grossed $10.3 million for three days, a 34% drop, and $13.7 million for four days at 2,631 theaters (+101 theaters; $5,207 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.9 million.
Directed by Todd Philips, it stars Breckin Meyer and Sean William Scott.
The four-day holiday weekend saw strong market shares for three studios. Paramount was a solid first with $74 million ("M:I-2") or 40.5% of the marketplace. Buena Vista was a strong second with $55.4 million ("Dinosaur" and "Shanghai Noon") or 30.3%. And DreamWorks was an impressive third with about $34.3 million ("Gladiator," "Road Trip" and "Small Time Crooks") or 18.8%.