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Cruise Crawls to 'Mission' Finish

Mission: Finished | Meryl Streep | Who Killed the Electric Car? | Tony Tony Tony; Rob's a Jewel; Regis to the Rescue

Cruise Crawls to 'Mission' Finish

Will there be a “Mission: Impossible 4”? Considering that No. 3 has been a bust in America, the chances are slim to none at this point.

Thank goodness, though, that South Korea still loves Tom Cruise. And France and Great Britain for that matter. If they didn’t, “Mission: Impossible 3” would have been a total bust. In America, “M: I3” has been kind of a box office nightmare.

Click here for the Tom Cruise Celebrity Center.

Today, Cruise’s much hoped for blockbuster gets chopped down by 759 theaters after a lackluster run. So far, the J.J. Abrams feature has taken in $124 million since Cruise ran around New York like a maniac back on May 4.

Is it possible all that hype and craziness, including pulling Katie Holmes away from her baby after two and a half weeks to help him at the Los Angeles premiere, happened just a month ago? But it did, and American audiences were not impressed.

Click here for the Katie Holmes Celebrity Center.

Contrary to a ridiculous idea printed in Variety a couple of weeks ago, the third installment of “M: I” is not going to do similar numbers to its predecessors. The first one brought in $180 million, the second one $216 million.

The new “M: I” will be lucky to top out at $150 million. Yesterday, with $124 million in its till, “M: I3” attracted less than $500,000. With “X-Men 3,” “Cars” and “The Omen” squeezing it out, the weekend doesn’t look good.

Luckily, South Koreans didn’t care about Scientology, home sonograms, couch jumping or Cruise’s robotic behavior. To make a total of $192 million internationally, the SKs ponied up $34 million and led the world in welcoming “M: I3.” The United Kingdom was second with $28 million, and France was third with $14 million.

Interestingly, Australia — where Cruise spent a lot of time with his Aussie ex-wife Nicole Kidman — wasn’t so impressed. Their audiences only forked over $8 million.

Of course, foreign box office totals are always a tricky thing to calculate, and with fluctuating currency rates, greasing of palms, etc., the actual numbers could be a lot different in the end.

The studios — in this case Paramount — will use that big worldwide gross to claim victory. But in the end, all that really matters is the U.S. number, and that’s a problem.

If “M: I3” ekes out another $10 million at the box office here, and finishes around $135 million, that will not be good news. The acknowledged production budget was $150 million. As one Paramount insider sniffed to me the other day, “If that’s what they’re admitting to, then it’s at least $175 million.”

From there you can add on a good $75 million for promotion and advertising. Make that a minimum $250 million total price tag, although a slightly higher number is not out of the question.

Now, here come the big expenses: Between Cruise’s upfront paycheck and his points on gross, you can subtract $25 million right away. Take away another $75 million to theater owners. Now you’re starting to get the picture. The mission is impossible.

One thing that “Mission: Impossible 3” did do is extend Cruise’s unusual record of $100 million movies that were flops. Curiously, all of his panned, unliked and dismissed movies of recent years — like “The Last Samurai,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Collateral” and “Minority Report” — made it past the finish line. His only actual blockbuster hit since “M: I2” has been “War of the Worlds,” but that had more to do with Steven Spielberg and massive special effects than Cruise’s appeal.

Meryl Streep: Devil On Prairie, In Prada

Here’s how you know Meryl Streep is the best actress of her generation and the one that followed it. She’s starring in two movies this month, the roles could not be more different, and she nails both of them.

I already told you about her turn in Robert Altman’s wonderful “Prairie Home Companion” as a country singer. The film opens today, and you must not miss this extraordinary bit of Americana. Streep sings and acts circles around almost anyone who comes near her with the possible exception of Lily Tomlin. They make a priceless pair.

Last night, however, I got to see a sneak private screening of Meryl as a haughty fashion editor in the hotly anticipated comedy, “The Devil Wears Prada.”

In New York, “Prada” is hot stuff because Lauren Weisberger, who wrote the book, once worked for Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour. The novel is a roman a clef about her experiences, and the memories of them are not too flattering.

In fact, Meryl’s character Miranda Priestley looks nothing like Wintour, but more like Good Housekeeping’s beloved editor in chief, Ellen Levine.

For the occasion of last night’s screening — hosted by the great Liz Smith — Ellen wore a Prada jacket. “It’s the only piece of Prada I own, and I bought it on sale!” she exclaimed.

Of course, warm and welcoming Ellen could not be less like steely and stuffy Miranda. But the physical resemblance is remarkable.

For Streep’s Miranda, it looks like the actress drew partly on her character from “The Manchurian Candidate.” Miranda is never not the center of attention in any room, and Streep gives her selfishness an unexpected humanity. It’s just great watching her and listening to her as she issues ridiculous edicts to the Weisberger character (played with disarming pulchritude by Anne Hathaway). She is riveting throughout.

“The Devil Wears Prada” is good for its supporting cast, too, including Emily Blunt — who’s wonderful as Miranda’s first assistant — and Adrien Grenier of “Entourage” fame.

Directed by David Frankel, the movie plays like a big screen version of “Sex and the City.” And that’s no surprise. Frankel directed many episodes of that series, as well as a pre-"Sex" Sarah Jessica Parker movie called “Miami Rhapsody.”

Almost everyone at our screening last night — followed by dinner at the Plaza Athenee Hotel —loved this movie with the exception of Regis Philbin and yours truly. We said it was a big chick flick, maybe the biggest ever.

But Liz, Cindy Adams, Barbara Walters, actress Holland Taylor, New York Times writers Alex Kuczynski and Jill Brooke, ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas, famed archeologist Iris Love — the women all loved it.

Some of these women, including PR expert Peggy Siegal, are part of a women’s lunch group called The Harpies, by the way. It’s believed that last night’s event was the first opened to strangers, and to men, by The Harpies.

And truly, the movie will likely catch on with young women all over the country. Is Conde Nast really like the film’s fictitious magazine publisher? In a word: yes, and worse.

Neither Vanity Fair publicist Beth Kseniak nor Conde Nast PR maven Maury Perl — each of whom was there — would confirm or deny. But one Vogue writer who shall go unnamed simply said, “I thought the movie was very mean.” In other words: it’s a hit.

Who Killed the Electric Car?

Producer Dean Devlin tells me that there will never be a sequel, sadly, to “Independence Day,” one of my favorite films. Devlin has just produced a terrific documentary called “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

At a rollicking and fun dinner for “Car” held at the landmark townhouse of Ann Dexter Jones, Devlin did, however, outline what might have been: in his version of the unmade sequel, the aliens, he said, are returning, but this time they are friendly. Unfortunately, we Earthlings don’t know that and are prepared to attack and destroy this time. Whoops!

Roland [Emmerich] and I talked about it, and we realized we’d be doing it just for the money. Our hearts weren’t in it,” Devlin said. There were problems with studio ownership, too, but that’s another story. In any case, no “ID 5.” If you have a home theater system, rent the existing film. It’s still wonderful.

As for “Car”: in California there were once 2,000 electric cars, not hybrids, that had big batteries and plugged in. The documentary tells the fascinating story of how the auto industry and oil companies fought them, and now they’ve all been compacted into little metal balls so no one can use them. Since it now costs $50 to fill up the tank of a regular car, you’d think people would be wondering about how this happened. This film answers that question.

Back at Ann Jones’ house: you know she’s the ex-wife of Foreigner’s Mick Jones and mother of superstar kids Mark Ronson, Samantha and Charlotte Ronson. Her Stuyvesant Square house was designed by the legendary architect Stanford White, who was murdered in 1906 by playboy Harry Thaw in a dispute about their common girlfriend, showgirl Evelyn Nesbit (you can read all about this in E.L. Doctorow’s great novel, “Ragtime”).

White, Thaw and Nesbit — who loved to party — would have had a grand time at the “Car” dinner, where the same birthday cake was trotted out several times with new candles for various recipients, including architect Peter Cook (husband of Christie Brinkley) and yours truly. Let’s just say it was a mousse with many antlers.

Tony Tony Tony; Rob's a Jewel; Regis to the Rescue

Sunday night’s Tony Awards are going to be star-studded and a don’t-miss evening of gossip. They’ve got 60 stars, including Julia Roberts and Oprah Winfrey, to present the awards. And there’s a real horse race between “Jersey Boys” and “The Drowsy Chaperone,” two of the best musicals in years to hit the boards at the same time….

If you’re in New York this weekend, don’t miss our pal Rob Thomas rocking with Jewel at Jones Beach. If you saw them on “Good Morning America” the other day, the pair performed a great version of “Stop Dragging My Heart Around.” Rob is always hot, but Jewel seems totally revived after a dry spell. Good for her….

Regis Philbin is off to tape Simon Cowell’s new contest show this weekend. “America’s Got Talent” airs on NBC later this month. Regis already saved ABC with “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Can he do it again for NBC? You betcha….