Multiplex Dollars Help TV Battle Summertime Blues

Networks Plump Up on the Last of the Sultry-Season Movies

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As blockbuster season winds down, TV networks are hoping that the handful of remaining big-budget summer movies will help lift their third-quarter sales numbers.

While most of the summer's most popular films have stopped advertising altogether, a few movies of more recent vintage continue to pour promotional dollars into TV. Chief among these is Paramount's "Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation" which, since rolling out its first spot on March 22, has accounted for $36.3 million in TV spend.

According to iSpot.tv data, the latest installment in the "Mission Impossible" franchise is now the summer's fourth biggest investor in TV time, trailing only Warner Bros.' "Mad Max: Fury Road" ($41.9 million), "Entourage" ($40.4 million) and "San Andreas" ($39.4 million).

The Viacom cable nets have reaped a disproportionate amount of "Mission Impossible" spend, as Warner's buys have targeted younger viewers at MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and Spike TV. Discounting earlier sports-related buys -- teasers for the Tom Cruise vehicle appeared during the 2015 NBA Finals and NCAA Men's Div. I Basketball Tournament -- the "Mission Impossible" cutdown has appeared most frequently on MTV's "Catfish: The TV Show" and "Ridiculousness," as well as in TBS' repeats of "Friends."

"Mission Impossible" this weekend launched with a domestic gross of $56 million, making it the summer's seventh-biggest opener.

While Warner Bros. boasts two of the summer's top action movies in "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "San Andreas," which together have raked in $303.9 million in stateside box office receipts against an aggregate TV spend of $81.3 million, the studio is also plagued by a pair of underachievers in "Entourage" and "Vacation." The theatrical extension of the HBO comedy series has scared up just $32.3 million since its June 3 release, despite Warner's $40.4 million TV spend. Meanwhile, the reboot of National Lampoon's 1983 road trip flick took in $21.2 million over its first five days in wide release, well shy of the studio's TV investment ($33.5 million, as of August 3).

Speaking of reboots, 20th Century Fox in the last three weeks has begun sharing the wealth in advance of the release of Marvel's "Fantastic Four." Shaking the Etch A Sketch a decade after the widely panned Tim Story effort and a subsequent 2007 sequel, Fox thus far has ponied up $19.3 million to promote the tenth motion picture to be set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the last three years. (The most recent Marvel entry, "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" is the summer/year's second-biggest earner with a U.S. gross of $457 million. TV spend: A mere $27 million, per iSpot.tv.)

As "Fantastic Four" opens this Friday (August 7), those initial spend figures are likely to change radically before the end of the week. As it stands at the moment, the footy pajamas set is the primary TV demo for the PG-13 "Fantastic Four," as the studio's heaviest buys have been made on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Disney XD.

The popcorn movie bonanza will begin to go stale after the August 14 release of Warner's "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." Thus far, the studio has invested $18.8 million on broadcast and cable airtime, laying down the most cash with Big Four nets Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS. In terms of sheer frequency, viewers of ESPN's "SportsCenter" and Fox's "The Simpsons" are more likely to catch the heavy-rotation "U.N.C.L.E." spot.

Also bowing on the 14th is Universal's NWA biopic "Straight Outta Compton." Since the studio first bought a 30-second spot in CBS' Feb. 8 broadcast of the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, the total TV outlay for "Compton" has reached some $13.5 million, with Viacom's Comedy Central, BET, VH1 and MTV2 accounting for one-third of the trailer's 1,837 national airings.

While September will bring an end to all the spandex melodrama and CGI-heavy money makers, the networks can look forward to at least three major fall releases. On Nov. 6, Sony and Columbia Pictures will unleash the 24th James Bond film ("SPECTRE"), while Lionsgate closes the book on the Hunger Games franchise with "Mockingjay, Part 2". And of course, the film that is almost certain to suck all the oxygen out of the pop culture atmosphere arrives Dec. 18, when J.J. Abrams taps into the Force -- and tries to undo what George Lucas wrought with those lousy prequels -- with "Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens."