Good guy or bad guy, Tom Cruise is still No. 1.
Cruise’s “Collateral,” in which he plays a psychotic hit man who hijacks a taxi for a one-night killing spree, debuted as the top weekend movie with $24.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
It was an unusually dark role for Cruise, best known for playing the hero. Jamie Foxx co-stars as the cabbie, while Michael Mann (“Ali,” “The Insider”) directed.
“Collateral” bumped off the previous weekend’s top movie, the fright flick “The Village,” which took in $16.6 million, a steep 67 percent tumble from its opening-weekend receipts. “The Village” pushed its 10-day total to $85.7 million.
The weekend’s other new wide release, the Brittany Murphy romantic comedy “Little Black Book,” opened weakly in fifth place with $7 million.
The overall box office was down sharply. The top 12 movies grossed $97.7 million, off 23 percent from the same weekend last year, when “S.W.A.T.” and “Freaky Friday” both opened strongly.
“This is why they call it the dog days of August,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. “Summers always surprise you. They either slow down at the end or they peak at the end.”
Summer revenues remain about 6 percent ahead of 2003’s, when Hollywood took in a record $3.9 billion from early May through Labor Day weekend.
Opening not up to Cruise standards
While the R-rated “Collateral” did only about half the opening-weekend business of Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible” movies, its debut was in line with his last two R-rated films, 2003’s “The Last Samurai” ($24.3 million) and 2001’s “Vanilla Sky” ($25 million).
The “Mission: Impossible” movies were rated PG-13, opening the audience to younger teens.
With good reviews and an older target audience, “Collateral” has potential to hold well at the box office in the coming weeks. Sixty percent of the audience was older than 25, according to distributor DreamWorks, and upcoming releases such as “Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” and “Alien vs. Predator” appeal to younger crowds.
“This one has the opportunity to continue to play,” said Jim Tharp, DreamWorks head of distribution. “I don’t think there’s direct competition especially for the older audience until late September.”
In limited release, the shark tale “Open Water” debuted strongly with $1.04 million in just 47 theaters. The low-budget film is inspired by the true story of a couple mistakenly left behind in shark-infested waters during a scuba-diving trip.
Michael Winterbottom’s sci-fi drama “Code 46,” starring Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton as lovers in a bleak future where travel is severely restricted, had a solid opening of $22,000 in three theaters.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.