“Cloud Atlas” had a lot riding on its shoulders. With a budget exceeding $100 million, this film was going to need to do sizeable business to justify its price tag. Even more pressingly, the film was following up the 2008 box office dud “Speed Racer,” which put a damper on the box office reputation of the Wachowski sisters. The duo had crushed it financially with each installment of the “Matrix” trilogy, but now they were on shakier ground. Perhaps a big swing like “Cloud Atlas,” anchored by massively recognizable names like Tom Hanks, would be just the ticket to restoring that clout.
Unfortunately, the movie couldn’t meet expectations in its box office run, especially domestically. In North America, “Cloud Atlas” grossed just $27.1 million, a dismal haul that was especially bad for a Hanks movie. Up to this point, “Cloud Atlas” was the second-lowest-grossing movie domestically that Hanks had starred in since the 1990 misfire “The Bonfire of the Vanities” (only “That Thing You Do!” fared worse in this territory). “Cloud Atlas” did do much better on the international market, where it secured $103.5 million, but that was still nowhere near enough to make it profitable on a $102 million budget (before promotion and distribution). Some things were always going to limit the box office potential of “Cloud Atlas,” including Warner Bros. never releasing it in more than 2,023 theaters domestically, but there was no getting around the movie’s financial shortcomings.