The real "failure to launch" of "Mission: Impossible III" at the box office has caused an immediate problem at Paramount Pictures.
Sources tell me that a catered lunch at the studio, planned ahead on Friday as a celebration, turned into a morbid affair. "Brad Grey and Rob Moore came to it, but no one spoke and eventually everyone left."
Apparently, reality set in faster in the Paramount executive suite than it did even among Cruise naysayers.
For one thing, weekend numbers — announced as estimates on Sunday — turned out to be slightly lower on Monday by almost a million bucks. The movie's real take was $47.7 million, not $48.6 million.
"You have to understand," says a source, "they sit around and try to decide what sounds better on Sunday. The $48 million sounded closer to 50. The 47 sounds more like 45."
You've got to feel for these people, though. Since Monday morning, every department at Paramount has been called on for immediate cost cutting, I'm told.
"Budget meetings are going on everywhere," says a source. "Everyone's being asked what they can do, and there's talk of layoffs again."
Why the sudden concern? On Monday night, "M: I3" may have become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
It made $3.5 million, off 72 percent from Sunday. That number must have had the Paramount prognosticators running around like earthquake experts.
You see, blockbusters generally do not drop so much from their first Sunday to Monday. Some examples: "Spider-Man 2" had a 57 percent drop, and "Batman Begins" had a 26 percent drop.
"War of the Worlds," Tom Cruise's last film, had only a 38 percent dip on its first Monday, but that was July 4 and a holiday. The following Monday it hung in there at 61 percent.
"They must be freaking out," says a source.
Indeed, the number-crunchers are going to be watching "M: I3" every day, maybe every hour this week to see where it's going.
Some astute TV viewers are already reporting seeing a new commercial that emphasizes Philip Seymour Hoffman as the villain Owen Davian.
If the numbers keep bottoming out as we head toward Friday, then Warner Bros. will be relieved. "Poseidon" might have a strong opening despite being awful.
And that's the irony here: "M: I3" is a terrific action film. Director J.J. Abrams did a great job, and the entire cast from Cruise right through to the team and various supporting players do a convincing job.
Cruise has several fantastic stunts that will take your breath away. It would be a shame if everyone waited to watch it at home on small screens.
Jailed and accused private detective Anthony Pellicano apparently has pen pals — literally, from the pen.
Self-styled private investigator Paul Barresi recently came into possession of some letters sent by Pellicano to another private eye in another city. We could tell you who it is but then we'd have to kill you — if he didn't first.
The several letters show Pellicano in a pensive light, musing about his incarceration and his future.
In one, from December 2003, he writes: "As one Sicilian to another, use your best efforts to service your clients without jeopardizing your freedom. My almost 40 years of business, and especially the last 20, were spent solving other people's problems without regard to my own safety and liberty. That was a mistake in itself. I had a long run, and it's time to leave the business anyway. There are simply too few honorable men left. And I say that with the most sincerity I can."
Three months later, in March 2004, Pellicano warns his correspondent that all of his mail is read before he gets it.
"And I mean, all of it," he writes. He also offers a favor to his pen pal: "I've already given your name to a few of my clients. They will consider you appropriately if the occasion arises."
The scary detective also complains to his pen pal about the way he's been treated by former clients and colleagues.
In July 2004, he postulates: "I am being sued constantly by people who wish to attempt to capitalize on my misfortune. None of this would happen if I was not vulnerable and not able to appropriately defend myself. Luckily for them."
Remember when we told you that Clive Davis brought Krispy Kremes to Pearl Jam fans last week? His generosity paid off.
Pearl Jam's new album came in at No. 2, with 280,000 copies sold. Their last album did a total of 363,000 after a first week of 89,000 copies. Was it the powdered sugar? The frosting? We'll never know, but Clive has the recipe for success.
The No. 1 album of the week, by Tool, sold 553,000 copies, by the way. It falls under Davis's purview, as well...
Denise Rich welcomed lots of friends and a few strangers into her magnificent Fifth Avenue triplex last night, showing off new designs from Jacob the Jeweler. The Uzbekistan native also brought his friends, including clothing designer Domenico Vacca and his wife Julie, who grew up with Jacob in that distant land. Now they're all in America and wildly successful!
StarCaps starlet Nikki Haskell was spotted at Denise's, as well as Marc Eichner, the head of her new record label, 785 Records. Denise next heads to the Cannes Film Festival, where she'll be giving a party for Stevie Wonder, among others, while staying on her yacht.
This column is also headed to Cannes in the next few days, but all boating will be confined to the bathtub in our youth hostel...
Jake's cheapest watch, by the way, comes in at $8,700. We took two (not!)...
And Page Six accidentally omitted our credit from their lead item yesterday. You read it here first many days ago that Gayle King is up for Star Jones' job at "The View"...