New York — Tom Cruise sped past Winnie-the-Pooh at the box office to lead all films for the second straight week with an estimated $35m in ticket sales for Mission Impossible - Fallout.
The success of Paramount Pictures' sixth, stunt-filled Mission: Impossible installment, along with muted enthusiasm for the Walt Disney Co.'s Christopher Robin, made for a seldom-seen result: A Disney movie debuting in second place.
In a year where the studio has already notched three $1bn films worldwide (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and, as of this week, Incredibles 2), the more modest Winnie-the-Pooh live-action revival opened with a relatively ho-hum $25m. As a reminder that Christopher Robin was a minor release for Disney, Black Panther on Sunday became the third film to ever cross $700m domestically, a feat only previously accomplished by Avatar and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Made for an estimated $75m, Marc Forster's Christopher Robin stars Ewan McGregor as a grown-up Christopher Robin reunited with the beloved characters of the Hundred Acre Wood: Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and the rest (who are rendered digitally but convincingly felt-like). While reviews were mixed, audiences gave it an "A'' CinemaScore.
Cathleen Taff, head of distribution for Disney, said there's room for non-tentpole releases in the Disney slate.
"It's one of our smaller films and it's really focused on character and emotion," said Taff. "We're happy with where it's at and we think it's got some runway being one of the only family options going forward."
Taff confirmed that Christopher Robin has been denied a release in China, locking the release out from the world's second largest film market. While China provides no reason for the films it doesn't select for its theatres, government sensors have recently been blocking images of Winnie-the-Pooh after bloggers began using him to parody Chinese president Xi Jinping.
The late-summer success of Mission: Impossible — which has made $124.5m thus far along with $205m internationally — is helping solidify a comeback summer for Hollywood. The summer box office is up 10.6 percent from last year's record-low season, according to comScore, and year-to-date ticket sales are up 8 percent.
"As we head into what is almost always the slowest month at the summer box office, we have some nice momentum going," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "With a 10.6 percent increase over the summer last year, we're going to maintain a solid advantage when we get to the end of the month."
Not all the news was great. Comedy continues to struggle at the box office. The R-rated action-comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me, starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, debuted in third with $12.4m for Lionsgate.
And a pair of poorly reviewed releases sputtered in nationwide release. Fox's young-adult dystopian thriller The Darkest Minds (19 percent "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes) opened with $5.7m on 3 127 screens. And right-wing filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza's Death of a Nation (0 percent "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes) debuted with $2.3m on 1 032 screens.