Tom Cruise Couldn't Show Viacom the Money

| About: Viacom Inc. (VIA)

When Viacom Inc.'s (NYSE:VIA) Paramount Studios announced that it was ending its 14-year relationship with Tom Cruise, Chairman Sumner Redstone cited the actor's recent behavior as cause. But an examination of Cruise's recent box office is likely more pertinent.

We went to the Internet Movie Database and looked up the U.S. box office grosses on each of Tom Cruise's movies since 1983's Risky Business with the exception of his cameo appearances in 1988's Young Guns and 2002's Austin Powers in Goldmember. Cruise appeared in from zero to two movies each year, and not surprisingly, the two-movie years tended to follow or precede the zero-movie years.

While considering the trends, two problems immediately reared up: Inflation and the overall downward trend in the U.S. box office. Surely, not even Viacom would hold Cruise responsible for industry trends.

Inflation turned out to not be a problem. Let's all simply declare Tom Cruise one of the biggest stars of the mid-to-late 1980s and the 1990s. If we limit our examination to 2000 and thereafter we not only dispense with the need to smooth the data - he's had one movie a year this decade - but inflation becomes relatively unimportant due to the shortened time frame.

To account for the general box office environment, we took the gross of Tom Cruise's films each year as a percentage of total box office. This is less ridiculous than it sounds. Using this analysis, his top year is 1996. Between Mission Impossible and Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise movies accounted for an amazing 5.7 percent of total annual domestic box office. Of those years in which he released a movie, the low point was 1985, when Legend was an early misstep.

But as the graph shows, the recent trend is clearly not in Cruise's favor. In fact, 2005 and War of the Worlds, though it took in $75 million, was the next worst year for the actor.

Cruise's eccentricities might have tipped the scales, but his box office didn't help.

At the time of publication, Paul DeMartino did not directly own puts or calls or shares of any company mentioned in this article. He may be an owner, albeit indirectly, as an investor in a mutual fund or an Exchange Traded Fund.

Note: This is independent investment and analysis from the Reuters.com investment channel, and is not connected with Reuters News. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not endorsed by Reuters.com.

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