By LINDSEY BAHR
AP Film Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The stakes may be high for Ethan Hunt and his team in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” but it was hardly impossible for the Tom Cruise pic to conquer the box office.
The fifth installment in the nearly 20-year-old film series has earned $56 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. Opening weekend audiences were 62 percent male and 81 percent over the age of 25.
It’s the second-highest opening for a “Mission” film since “Mission Impossible II” took in $57.8 million over Memorial Day weekend in 2000. Rentrak’s Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian said Cruise is to credit for making these films one of the longest-running viable franchises on the market.
“He created a new Tom Cruise in the minds of audiences. He came off as very approachable, funny, he did the lip synching with Jimmy Fallon. This is the playbook on how a star _ who is also a producer on the movie _ gets the word out about his movie,” he said. “He’s a marketing machine.”
The Paramount and Skydance Productions film from writer-director Christopher McQuarrie cost a reported $150 million to produce and should have no problem making up its budget, especially with overseas earnings.
Besides generating some of the best reviews in the series, “Rogue Nation” was bumped up on the release schedule from Christmas to summer somewhat last minute _ even though they were still shooting the movie well into the spring.
Megan Colligan, Paramount’s president of worldwide distribution and marketing, said that made advance marketing a challenge.
“We had to be precise in what we were doing and take some chances and live a little outside the box. We knew how good the movie was,” she said.
Some of those unconventional choices included screening the movie before it was finished.
The film also did not appear to suffer from any Cruise backlash as a result of Alex Gibney’s Scientology documentary “Going Clear,” which came out earlier this year.
“The average moviegoer just cares about the movie,” said Dergarabedian. “They’re not thinking about that other stuff.”
Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ `Vacation,’ went a bit off track. The $30 million film earned $14.9 million over the weekend and $21.2 million since opening Wednesday. Starring Ed Helms and Christina Applegate, the R-rated film was imagined as a continuation of the 1983 road trip comedy “National Lampoon’s Vacation” when a now grown Rusty Griswold (Helms) takes his family to Wally World.
Critics were not kind to the raunchy comedy from first-time directors John Frances Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, and audiences as a whole didn’t seem too thrilled either. According to exit polls, audiences gave the film a not-promising B CinemaScore.
“While we have a B overall CinemaScore, the younger the audience, the higher the score,” Warner Bros.’ domestic distribution Executive Vice President Jeff Goldstein said.
Also, Goldstein noted that interest piqued over the weekend. The film built momentum and actually slightly outperformed what its modest Wednesday and Thursday earnings had predicted for the weekend.
Dergarabedian said that “Vacation” started out slow partially because “Mission: Impossible” dominated the conversation, but it has the potential to gain traction.
“That was a tough opening,” he said. “We’ll see how it does in the coming weeks.”
Holdovers “Ant-Man,” “Minions,” and “Pixels,” rounded out the top five. While the year-to-date box office is still up 8.3 percent, it will be down significantly for this weekend from last year when “Guardians of the Galaxy” opened to a stunning $94.3 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1.”Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” $56 million.
2.”Vacation,” $14.9 million.
3.”Ant-Man,” $12.6 million.
4.”Minions,” $12.2 million.
5.”Pixels,” $10.4 million.
6.”Trainwreck,” $9.7 million.
7.”Southpaw,” $7.5 million.
8.”Paper Towns,” $4.6 million.
9.”Inside Out,” $4.5 million.
10.”Jurassic World,” $3.8 million.