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Weak 'Knight and Day' opening: The fall of Hollywood stars?

As Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz found out with the $3.8 million opening of 'Knight and Day,' audiences aren't so much looking for big-name Hollywood stars anymore.

By Staff writer / June 24, 2010

Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise in a scene from 'Knight and Day.' The film's weak opening disappointed Hollywood watchers, and gives credence to the theory of movie stars' fall from grace.

Frank Masi/20th Century Fox/AP

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Sherman Oaks, Calif.

If the $3.8 million Wednesday box office for the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action flick “Knight and Day” is any sign, this may just turn into the summer that saw movie stars officially fall from grace.

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With production costs topping $125 million, it’s hard to see that tally as anything but tepid. Just compare that to say, the Wednesday opening numbers for other popcorn powerhouses such as “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” – 62 million, or “Spider-Man 2,” which took in $40.4 million on its Wednesday opening. Even Mr. Cruise’s own “War of the Worlds” made $21.3 million, while “Mission Impossible 2” pulled in $12.5 million, both on mid-week debuts.

While Hollywood.com box office president Paul Dergarabedian politely dubs the film’s performance “acceptable,” he notes that the few box office bright spots so far this summer are anything but star-driven: “Karate Kid” made nearly $56 million its first weekend and features the unknown Jaden Smith, while the Pixar family film “Toy Story 3” stars animated kid’s playthings.

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The trend away from big, star-driven vehicles wowing audiences every weekend has been brewing for some time, he points out, but this summer it may reach a new threshold he says, with little buzz building for such star vehicles as Angelina Jolie’s bid to be a female James Bond in “Salt,” and Adam Sandler’s “Grownups.”

“Moviegoers are less and less looking for that big name,” Mr. Dergarabedian says, adding that these days they are more attracted to a good concept or an interesting plot.

Movie stars are far from extinct, says Dan Hudak, multimedia film critic and creator of hudakonhollywood.com, but they are competing with too many other forms of entertainment to hold consumers' attention the way they used to. Beyond that, he points out, today’s actors want to stretch and try new genres but they do so at risk to their public persona. “Back in the old days if a tried and true star like John Wayne wanted to try something new,” he says, the performer would be careful to extend into a role or genre that capitalized on the characteristics that made him famous.

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