Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny Swings Towards Dismal $60 Million Opening Weekend


It's been more than seven years since Disney announced that Harrison Ford would be donning his fedora and cracking his whip again in a fifth "Indiana Jones" movie, which was originally set for release in 2019. Now, the new film from director James Mangold ("Logan") has barreled into theaters with the second-best opening weekend for the franchise so far, but still a long road ahead before it can hope to break even on its reported $295 million budget.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" is set to open at the lower end of projections, in the range of $60 million over the three-day weekend. THR reports that the studio is still hoping it could go as high as $65 million, but Deadline notes that one estimate had it opening as low as $55 million. That's a long way behind the $100.1 million debut that "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" enjoyed back in 2008, and while it's still the second-highest opening weekend for an "Indiana Jones" movie in raw numbers, it's the second-lowest when adjusting for inflation ("Temple of Doom" and "The Last Crusade" enjoyed debuts equivalent to $74 million and $72 million, respectively, in 2023 dollars).

"Dial of Destiny" grossed $24 million at the domestic box office on Friday, including $7.2 million from Thursday night previews. Reviews have been somewhat mixed, with the movie holding a score of 68 percent on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing, and audience polling by CinemaScore delivered a good-not-great B+ grade. 

There's still potential for the movie to regain ground if it has a strong hold in the coming weeks. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" started off with an opening weekend of $8.3 million before going on to become the highest-grossing movie of 1981, and last year's "Top Gun: Maverick" proved that "dad movies" can have serious staying power. But without the rave reviews and word of mouth that "Maverick" and "Raiders" enjoyed, a standard downhill slide seems more likely.

Mistimed nostalgia bait and the curse of the Crystal Skull

Before we go giving "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" too much credit for that $100 million+ opening weekend, it's important to recognize that the fourth Indy movie couldn't have been better set up for success. It released almost exactly two decades after "The Last Crusade," fitting neatly into the 20 Year Rule for nostalgia cycles. "Crystal Skull" also marked director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford's first return to the franchise after the original trilogy had matured into a beloved part of the pop culture scenery. "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" had enjoyed a similar level of anticipation a decade earlier, propelling it to $924 million worldwide.

Unfortunately, "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" has something else in common with the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy: fans hated it. Some people have since come around on the "Star Wars" prequels — enough that Hayden Christensen received a hero's welcome at Star Wars Celebration earlier this year — and again, that may have something to do with the 20-year nostalgia cycle; with enough time, harsh opinions soften and even the cheesier aspects of a hated movie come to be viewed with affection. But either not enough time has passed for "Crystal Skull" or the movie really was that bad, because anticipation for "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" felt muted from the start.

Currently, Indy's latest adventure looks doomed to bomb at the box office, though it's hard to determine what, if anything, the impact of that will be. From the start the movie was pitched as one last adventure for Indiana Jones. With Ford now in his 80s and vulnerable to on-set injuries, the actor is overdue to retire from tuk-tuk chase sequences. As for recasting — well, the last time an iconic Harrison Ford character was recast, it didn't go down well.

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