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Tom Cruise rides the "Mission Impossible" franchise wave in golden year for Hollywood

Tom Cruise's fifth "Mission: Impossible" film soared in its first weekend, with $56 million in ticket sales, one of the highest-grossing openings this year. Universal has brought in a combined $3 billion globally from "Jurassic World" and "Furious 7," just two of many hits this year for the comeback studio. And these films may not even compare to the expected monster release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in December.

This is the year of the big-screen revival, with major and familiar film franchises driving record audiences back into theaters. Like never before, moviegoers are seeing a return of films and beloved characters such as Ethan Hunt of the 19-year-old series "Mission: Impossible," Han Solo of "Star Wars," Katniss Everdeen of the "Hunger Games" series, and James Bond, who is now in his 53rd year of action.

And so far, U.S. and global audiences are eating up Hollywood's slate of sequels.

For all the hand-wringing over low ticket sales in 2014, the U.S. box office is up 12.5 percent this summer compared with last year, according to data research firm Rentrak. Moviegoing in China is exploding, with the opening of 12 to 13 screens every day; overall ticket sales were up 46 percent in July over the last year.

For every blockbuster in the United States, the movies are making far more overseas — sometimes double. Disney's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" is ranked second in U.S. ticket sales this year, with $457 million, and it made double that amount overseas — a total of nearly $1.4 billion in global ticket sales.

It has been harder for some comedies and dramas to capture global audiences. Romantic comedies, in particular, don't necessarily translate to local cultures.

That's why Hollywood is betting that its long-running movie franchises, comic book series, and action adventures will draw the biggest audiences.

Four years after the fourth of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise was made, "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation" brought back 53-year-old Cruise to star in a plot to uncover a sophisticated network of rogue agents known as the Syndicate. The movie registered the second-highest opening for the franchise, just behind "Mission: Impossible II," which made $57 million in its 2000 opening, according to Rentrak.

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