Here's hoping Tom Cruise's 'Edge of Tomorrow' is a hit

Edge of Tomorrow. (Courtesy)

Edge of Tomorrow. (Courtesy)

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:58 PM ET

There was a time when nobody knew or cared about a movie’s box office. All anybody wanted to know was whether it was worth the admission.

Then – Monday usually being a slow news day anyway – the weekend box performance of $100 million movies became news. Spider-Man beat Shrek in much the same way the Pacers beat the Heat.

And a curious thing happened. Movies that made a lot of money tended to make a lot more money once people heard how much money they were taking in. Hey, if that many people paid to see it, it must be good!

And by the proverbial water cooler, what’s a better conversation starter? A movie everybody’s talking about? Or a sleeper you and a dozen other people in North America are even aware of?

Film buffs have complained about the dictatorship of the box office for decades. But we’re in an era now where we’re not content to chew on last weekend’s box office. We want the box office of movies that haven’t even been released yet.

So it goes for Tom Cruise, anyway. His upcoming sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow – about a soldier condemned to be killed and relive the same disastrous battle day after day – doesn’t come out until June 6. But it’s ostensibly “tracking badly,” and is already being touted by the likes of Variety and The Wrap as possibly THE box office bomb of the summer.

Remember, no one has even seen it yet.

By “tracking,” we don’t even mean the old-school show-it-to-select-audiences-and-get-their-reaction. Nowadays, it means companies like Fizziology that are paid to track social media by snooping on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr and keeping track of mentions and the tone of these interactions. One “Tom Cruise sucks” is a point against this $200 million movie, no matter how good it turns out to be.

(Traffic was apparently also skewed by a great deal of online excitement over The Fault in Our Stars with Shailene Woodley, taken from a best-selling young-adult novel about romance among young cancer patients. That movie is opening against Cruise, and could easily beat it, if you believe the numbers).

I’m not sure how much the public really cares about Hollywood inside-baseball. Does the average person give a damn whether Sony or Disney holds the rights to Iron Man?

But the studios are clearly taking the Church of Online Chatter seriously. Plans were scuttled for print junket interviews during the movie’s London launch. Trimming the promotion budget is generally seen as an attempt to halt the bleeding (It should be noted that the film’s ‘three red carpets in one day’ event is still taking place).

Again, the public hasn’t had a chance to vote with its wallet yet. But there’s already an algorithmic number – a $25 million domestic opening weekend – based on the exchanges between @luvmunky420 and @trudat911.

Is this a self-fulfilling prophecy? Does knowing that the next Tom Cruise movie is predicted to flop make you want to see it less? After all, people want to back winners, not losers.

There have historically been notoriously wrong box office predictions, of course – two involving James Cameron. Both Titanic and Avatar were predicted to be huge bombs. But the basis of those predictions were the unprecedented size of their production budgets and the inability of the human brain to conceive of box office measured in billions.

Now, it’s based on crunched numbers taken from ‘Net traffic. Ipso fatso, it’s science. At long last, we can see the future. #sogivemesomelottonumbers.

The wonk factor, the arrogance and the Orwellian creepiness of having your every online interaction captured and collated, leave me cold.

I’ve never thought of Tom Cruise as an underdog before. But I’m officially hoping Edge of Tomorrow has, in Variety-speak, “boffo b.o.”


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