Universal’s so-called Dark Universe launches this week with the Tom Cruise-led remake of The Mummy. It’s a massive endeavor that Universal seems willing to bet their next decade worth of blockbusters on. Following this first movie in the budding mega-franchise will be remakes of Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Wolf-Man, Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame of all things.
No matter what they intend to do with the franchise in the future, everything depends on The Mummy. It’s the proof-of-concept that will definitively convince studio executives whether or not there’s even a market for a shared horror universe. If it flops with audiences, it could spell the pre-emptive end for the star-studded monster mash.
Although critics are already ripping into the movie – with many calling it the worst movie Tom Cruise has ever been in – it could still become a huge hit internationally, thanks in no small part to Cruise’s appeal overseas. While The Mummy is projected to make as little as $35 million at the domestic box office, playing second banana to Wonder Woman’s record-breaking theatrical run, it could make more than five times that worldwide.
Analysts are expecting The Mummy to safely make in the neighborhood of $150 million outside of the US. Depending on how the movie plays in China, it could pass The War of the World’s $167 million international opening, making it the highest grossing international opening for Tom Cruise. Given that the movie only cost $125 million to produce, its safe to say that the global market is single-handedly saving the Dark Universe.
Thanks to its large, and largely affluent, population, the United States has always been the most important territory for a movie to release in. Historically speaking, money made overseas has largely been an afterthought for studios: important, yes, but of secondary concern next to the raw numbers they could put during a movie’s domestic release.
That is increasingly proving to not be the case, however. While the United States is still an important component of a movie’s financial health, the rest of the world – and especially China – is having more and more say when it comes to the kinds of movies they want to see in theaters. Although the latest Pirates of the Caribbean sank in the domestic box office, it made most of its $500 million haul outside of the US. And although Power Rangers performed reasonably well stateside, it abysmal performance in China killed off any potential it had as a modern blockbuster franchise.
So while certainly not ideal, The Mummy can take a hit in the United States if it manages to make up for that in the rest of the world. And as of this moment, it looks like it’s going to do just that. So buckle up, Film Fans, it looks like we’re going to have to choke down a lot more of these before they’ve run their course.