Just how much will ''Mission: Impossible III'' make? Joshua Rich weighs the many factors and comes up with a number...

Here we go again… No, here we really go again — the summer movie season kicks off this weekend, and the real fun starts! Paramount’s Mission: Impossible III is here, baby! Finally. The guessing game begins. Is Tom Cruise still worth the big bucks? Can he pack adoring fans into theaters like he used to? Will his new movie be a smash hit?

I’ll try to make this quick, because my Ritalin prescription ran out and I have to go get a refill. So many questions. Not a lot of answers, unfortunately, at least not till after the weekend’s receipts come in. One thing is for certain: M:I-3 will open at No. 1. But figuring out how much it’s going to gross is indeed a bit of an impossible mission. So let’s look back at how the past two M:I movies fared. M:I debuted to $45.5 million over three days in 1996, and M:I-2 enjoyed a $57.8 mil premiere in 2000. But my dear pal Paul at box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations points out that the release pattern for this movie differs slightly from the other two in a few ways. Way No. 1: M:I and M:I-2 both opened on the hugely lucrative Memorial Day weekend, while M:I-3 does not. Way No. 2: M:I and M:I-2 both opened in fewer venues (3,012 and 3,653, respectively) than M:I-3 is (a very wide 4,054). Way No. 3: Tom Cruise hadn’t yet turned himself into a pop-culture punchline when those movies came out. Okay, dear pal Paul didn’t mention that last tidbit, but it could be the deciding factor here. There’s been a lot of talk about how Cruise has alienated his female fans of late, and that could really sting. Then again, the franchise has such a broad appeal — and reviews have been pretty positive to boot — that all of the actor’s extra-curricular stuff shouldn’t have too much of an impact. So let’s pick a number: $65 million sounds good, don’tcha think?

Cannon fodder — sorry, other movies opening this weekend will fall way behind, though they will benefit from the general increase in traffic at multiplexes that M:I-3 will generate. The live-action kid flick Hoot, from New Line, bows on 3,018 screens and will earn $11 mil. The thriller An American Haunting, from something called Freestyle Releasing, just jumped onto the schedule in 1,667 locations, and with little fanfare it’ll do $4 mil. And Warner Independent’s foreign fairy tale The Promise, which has been a huge hit in China, bows on 209 screens and will make $2 mil. I promise.

An American Haunting
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  • 84 minutes