These 3 big-ticket films will be fighting for audience's love at the box office this month

Hollywood's clash of the titans

By Yasser Usman

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A still from Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One
A still from Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One

Published: Thu 6 Jul 2023, 4:54 PM

This month will witness one of the most significant clashes at the box office in recent memory. Pitted against each other are two heavyweights — Tom Cruise, the star of Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One releasing on July 12, and iconic filmmaker Christopher Nolan, whose ambitious Oppenheimer premieres a week later (July 21). Adding further intensity to the competition, Greta Gerwig’s highly-anticipated Barbie also arrives on the same date (July 21). As anticipation builds, the question remains — who will win the ‘battle of July’ in Hollywood? The answer is far from simple as the conflict spans across many fronts, adding complexity to the situation.

Superstar Tom Cruise is being credited for ‘saving’ Hollywood after his last summer outing, Top Gun: Maverick, grossed a phenomenal $1.5 billion worldwide. Even the legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg was overheard saying that Cruise was ‘saving Hollywood’ as the film industry was trying to rebound from the pandemic. So Tom Cruise seemed geared up to repeat the success with Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning till Oppenheimer dropped a bomb. While Hollywood has experienced big box office clashes in the past, director Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated drama exploring the genesis of the atom bomb holds a distinct advantage. This battle extends beyond mere content and star power; it is a fight for screens and theatres.

Still from 'Oppenheimer'
Still from 'Oppenheimer'

It’s now generally believed that the best way to enjoy big, action packed, VFX-heavy films like Mission: Impossible and Oppenheimer are in IMAX theatres. Viewers making the effort to visit a theatre for a major movie expect it to witness it on the most expansive screen available. Therefore, it is crucial for filmmakers to ensure that their movie secures a substantial amount of IMAX screen time. And that’s where Oppenheimer took a lead as Universal Studio negotiated a rare agreement for Oppenheimer to control IMAX’s entire North American footprint for three full weeks. In simple words, Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning will remain in the IMAX theatres for nine days before being replaced by Oppenheimer for next three weeks.

Over the years, Christopher Nolan has been a fervent advocate of IMAX, hailing it as “the best film format that was ever invented”. This strong endorsement from Nolan might be one of the reasons why IMAX, despite Tom Cruise’s earnest attempts to alter the situation, chose to uphold their commitment to Nolan. In an interview, the CEO of IMAX expressed that Nolan holds a special place in the heart of IMAX due to his utilisation of IMAX cameras and his active promotion of the format.

Still from 'Barbie'
Still from 'Barbie'

The age-old wisdom says that ultimately viewers will give their verdict based on the content of the three films and the IMAX theatre shortage might just be a technical jargon. The numbers, however, tell a different story. The footfall in theatres has considerably reduced after the pandemic but the desire to experience big movies on the grandest and most vibrant screens has surged exponentially. This has been proved by the market share for IMAX, which is up 50 per cent without adding any new screens. So the absence of IMAX theatres is definitely a big issue.

Ultimately, Tom Cruise had to divert his focus to get the maximum number of Dolby cinemas. Then came the next challenge, the competition from Margot Robbie’s star-studded Barbie. Cruise won this fight. Barbie is now expected to get the screens left by the two biggies. Barbie will not be playing in IMAX at all. Though cinema enthusiasts believe the actual competition still lies between Tom Cruise and Christopher Nolan, you can’t take Barbie lightly. The hype of Warner Bros’ vibrant pink Barbie trailer is incredible. The comedy features Margot Robbie as the beloved doll from Barbieland setting off on an adventure into the real world. It’s a PG-13 ‘happy-cheerful’ movie normally preferred by the audience while Oppenheimer is an intense R-rated, World War biopic with long sequences presented in black and white. In fact, numerous surveys and early projections for the opening weekend box office indicate that Barbie could potentially deliver a significant surprise.

Hollywood trade experts feel that though this battle is going to affect all the three big films, Tom Cruise’s star power alone can be the most important factor in this battle. The hype generated by Cruise’s spectacular stunts from the teasers is unprecedented. The saga about the beginning of the end of Ethan Hunt comes with the dependable loyalty of Cruise’s fans, IMAX or no IMAX. Recently, Tom Cruise, being his magnanimous self, showered praises on Oppenheimer and Barbie, saying he loves a double feature.

Regardless of the outcome of the battle of July, it is the viewers who will emerge as the biggest beneficiaries as they are treated to a summer of grand movies, each offering a unique experience and visual palette. The movie industry can just hope that all the three films will find their audiences... or do you think it’s a ‘mission impossible’?

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