Stephen Vaughan  /  PARAMOUNT PICTURES
Paramount Pictures is hoping for an explosive weekend at the box office from Tom Cruise and 'Mission: Impossible III.'
By Jerry Cobb Reporter
updated 5/5/2006 5:43:34 PM ET 2006-05-05T21:43:34

“Mission: Impossible III” may looks like a surefire hit, but the movie is actually a big roll of the dice for Paramount Pictures, which is struggling to reverse its fortunes.

Paramount is pulling out all the stops in “III,” and the rest of Hollywood is counting on the film to open the critical summer movie season with a bang.

“‘Mission: Impossible III’ could be a sensational film because it's a great action movie for the guys and a really good romantic weepy for the gals," said In Touch Weekly’s Tom O’Neil. "It's a perfect date film. It's a perfect family film. This movie has it all. The question is: Will the public go see it?"

After the disappointing reviews for “Mission: Impossible II,” some moviegoers may have lost interest in the franchise.

And after last year’s box office slump, nothing can guarantee success in the move business — not even an A-list star like Tom Cruise or a hot director like J.J. Abrams.

"There's tons of action, there's all the stuff that you'd expect in one regard, but there's also a real focus on character. I wanted to make sure you cared about these people,” said Abrams.

Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc., cares deeply about “Mission: Impossible III,” and it desperately needs the film to be a hit. Ticket sales for the company have been about 30 percent below other major Hollywood studios. And newly appointed chairman and chief executive Brad Grey is under the gun to turn the business around.

“I think this movie ‘Mission: Impossible III’ is critically important for both Brad Grey's turnaround of the Paramount studio and for Tom Cruise's career to get kind of a data point proxy on whether Tom Cruise and Paramount have a future in this business,” said Laura Martin, an analyst with Soleil-Media Metrics.

The standard that Hollywood will use to judge “Mission: Impossible III” is Cruise’s hit from last summer, “War of the Worlds,” which opened with $70 million in ticket sales over the Fourth of July weekend and went on to gross more the $230 million domestically.

"This is the best of the three “Mission: Impossible” movies," said O'Neil. "The problem is No. 2 was pretty bad. They should send in a spy team to figure out what that was even about. But it made $57 million its opening weekend, (and) it went on to top $200 million. This movie has to do better."

But “Mission: Impossible III” will face tough competition after its opening weekend. Warner Bros.’ “Poseidon” opens next weekend, Sony’s “The Da Vinci Code” opens the following weekend and Fox’s “X-Men: The Final Stand” the weekend after that.

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