Domestic business was off for the first time in nearly two months. Overall revenues totaled $112 million, down 12.6 percent from the same weekend last year, when Cruise's "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol" debuted with $29.6 million, according to Hollywood.com.
Cruise's "Jack Reacher" opened at barely half the level as "Ghost Protocol," but with a $60 million budget, the new flick cost about $100 million less to make.
Starting on Christmas, Hollywood expects a big week of movie-going with schools out through New Year's Day and many adults taking time off. So Paramount and other studios are counting on strong business for films that started slowly this weekend.
"'Jack Reacher' will end up in a very good place. The movie will be profitable for Paramount," said Don Harris, the studio's head of distribution. "The first time I saw the movie I saw dollar signs. It certainly wasn't intended to be compared to a 'Mission: Impossible,' though."
Likewise, Warner Bros. is looking for steady crowds for "The Hobbit" over the next week, despite the debut of two huge newcomers — the musical "Les Miserables" and the action movie "Django Unchained" — on Christmas Day.
"We haven't reached the key holiday play time yet," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner. "It explodes on Tuesday and goes right through the end of the year."
In limited release, Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden manhunt saga "Zero Dark Thirty" played to packed houses with $410,000 in just five theaters, averaging a huge $82,000 a cinema.
That compares to a $4,654 average in 3,352 theaters for "Jack Reacher" and a $4,130 average in 2,913 cinemas for "This Is 40." ''The Guilt Trip" averaged $2,217 in 2,431 locations, and "Monsters, Inc." averaged $1,925 in 2,618 cinemas. Playing just one matinee and one evening show a day at 840 theaters, "Cirque du Soleil" averaged $2,542.