Madagascar 3 Smashes Cruise’s Rock, Shames Sandler’s Boy

Movies with two top stars fall to the DreamWorks animation juggernaut. Are Tom and Adam at a career crossroads, or heading off the box-office cliff?

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Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise! Adam Sandler! It wasn’t long ago that those two Hollywood stars deserved exclamation points after their names. In the quarter century between Top Gun in 1986 and Mission: Impossible 4 last Christmas, Tom Terrific starred in 16 movies that grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office. According to Box Office Mojo, the total revenue from the Cruise oeuvre, just in North America, is $3.1 billion. Sandler, whose run of a dozen $100-million-plus comedies kicked off with The Waterboy in 1998, has earned more than $2 billion at domestic theaters. Just two years ago this month, Sandler’s Grown Ups took in $40.5 million on its opening weekend, Cruise’s Knight & Day $20.1 million. So when the $5 billion men opened this weekend in films tailored to their constituencies…

Nothing happened. A gigantic, near-historic nothing; a black hole of embarrassment for the two stars. Cruise, as preening stud icon Stacee Jaxx, was the featured attraction in Rock of Ages, based on the long-running Broadway musical tribute to ’80s glam rock. According to preliminary studio estimates, the movie cadged just $15.1 million at the North American box office, placing a distant third behind movies in their second weeks: Madagascar 3 at $35.5 million, Prometheus at $20.2 million. In its first 10 days, the DreamWorks threequel has earned $120.5 million at home (a bit more than Mad 2 at the same period) and $277.5 million worldwide — about $60 million more than Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel, which so far is not nearly the phenomenon that its studio, Fox, and its legion of fans had hoped for.

(READ: Corliss’s reviews of Madagascar 3 and Prometheus)

But the middling results for Prometheus far outstrip the muddle-puddle that is the Cruise film. Opening far below the $27-million mark reached years ago by similar musical retreads — the early-’60s pastiche Hairspray in 2007, the ABBA songbook Mamma Mia! in 2008 — Rock of Ages received a mediocre B rating from early attendees polled by CinemaScore. The movie’s audience: 62% female, 74% over the age of 25. That’s the demographic of a Broadway crowd, much older and way smaller than a movie with a $75-million budget needs to attract.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Rock of Ages)

Sandler, in That’s My Boy, did even worse: just $13 million, for a fifth-place finish, trailing even a the third weekend of a girlie movie, Snow White and the Huntsman. Oh, the ignominy! Discounting Sandler’s pro-bono work in more indie-minded projects from Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch-Drunk Love), James L. Brooks (Spanglish) and Mike Binder (Reign Over Me), this is the stinkiest debut ever for a star who has seen 11 of his movies open above $30 million and five above $40 million.

(READ: Mary Pols’ review of That’s My Boy)

Some observers thought Sandler risked losing the fans of his usual PG-13 fare with the R-rated That’s My Boy; but Adamites are just the sort to patronize the raunchier stuff, including his turn in Judd Apatow’s comedy-drama Funny People, which opened to an O.K. $22.7 million three summers ago. This weekend’s audience — 54% male, 52% under 25 — gave That’s My Boy the raspberry of a B-minus CinemaScore, which suggests that the film won’t profit from word of mouth. Insult to injury: Sandler’s playing the reprobate dad of Saturday Night Live regular Andy Samberg, and he gets this awful Father’s Day present.

(LIST: Top 10 Movie Dads)

With a budget about the same as Rock of Ages’, the Sandler movie is in deeper trouble than the Cruise, and the difference is the foreign market. Cruise’s films over the last decade have earned nearly 70% of their worldwide income from foreign territories (because they’re mostly action pictures), Sandler’s just 30-40% (because comedies don’t travel so well abroad). If his movies aren’t making it here, they won’t make it anywhere. So Cruise, who turns 50 on July 3, may have a longer star-life than the 45-year-old Sandler.

(READ Corliss on Cruise and Sandler by subscribing to TIME)

The abysmal grosses of the Cruise-Sandler double bill sent cinemetricians (box-office statskeepers) scurrying to find a June weekend when two major releases performed quite so poorly. The answer: the weekend of June 3-5, 2005, when Cinderella Man, the boxing drama with Russell Crowe (remember when he was a star?) earned $18.3 million and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants took in $9.8 million, for a total of $28.15 million, almost exactly what Rock of Ages and That’s My Boy are projected to earn this weekend. Back then, Cinderella and Pants finished fourth and fifth, behind three stalwart holdovers: the first Madagascar, Sandler’s own The Longest Yard and the final Star Wars episode, Revenge of the Sith. Later that month, Cruise’s War of the Worlds opened to a $64.9-million weekend, just after he had made a fool of himself trampolining on Oprah’s couch. But that was a long time ago in a box-office galaxy far away…

(READ: Is Tom Cruise Crazy in Love? Or Just Plain Crazy?)

Among indie films, Lynn Shelton’s ambitious romantic comedy Your Sister’s Sister parlayed the art-house star power of Emily Blunt, Rosemary DeWitt and Mark Duplass to a $117,000 opening in 13 theaters, while The Woman in the Fifth, the broody mindbender starring Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas, scared up a mild #37,000 at eight venues. The robust holdovers The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (nearing the end of its impressive run) and Moonrise Kingdom (still gingerly increasing its number of theaters) both made the box-office top 10 for the second weekend in a row. We’ll check back later in the summer to see whether either of these modestly budgeted comedy-dramas manage to do better at the box office than the high-priced flops from Messrs. Cruise and Sandler.

Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:

1. Madagascar 3: Europe‘s Most Wanted, $35.5 million; $120.5 million, second week

2. Prometheus, $20.2 million; $88.9 million, second week

3. Rock of Ages, $15.1 million, first weekend

4. Snow White and the Huntsman, $13.8 million; $122.6 million, third week

5. That’s My Boy, $13 million, first weekend

6. Men in Black 3, $10 million; $152.7 million, fourth week

7. The Avengers, $8.8 million; $586.7 million, seventh week

8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, $2.2 million; $35.1 million, seventh week

9. Moonrise Kingdom, $2.2 million; $6.8 million, fourth week

10. What to Expect When You’re Expecting, $1.3 million; $38.8 million, fifth week

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