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‘Top Gun: Maverick’ soars high in US box office

Lindsey Bahr

AP – The 59-year-old superstar just got his first USD100 million opening weekend with Top Gun: Maverick. In its first three days in North American theatres, the long-in-the-works sequel earned an estimated USD124 million in ticket sales, Paramount Pictures said on Sunday. Including international showings, its worldwide total is USD248 million.

It’s a supersonic start for a film that still has the wide-open skies of Memorial Day itself to rake in even more cash. According to projections and estimates, by yesterday’s close, Top Gun: Maverick will likely have over USD150 million.

“These results are ridiculously, over-the-top fantastic,” said Paramount’s president of domestic distribution Chris Aronson. “I’m happy for everyone. I’m happy for the company, for Tom, for the filmmakers.”

Though undeniably one of the biggest stars in the world – perhaps even “the last movie star”, according to various headlines – Cruise is not known for massive blockbuster openings.

Before Maverick, his biggest domestic debut was in 2005, with Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, which opened to USD64 million. After that it was Mission: Impossible – Fallout with USD61 million in 2018. It’s not that his films don’t make money in the long run: They just aren’t enormously frontloaded.

Top Gun: Maverick had an extremely long journey to get to the theatres. The sequel to the late Tony Scott’s Top Gun, which was released in 1986, was originally slated to open in the summer of 2020. Its marketing campaign technically started back in July 2019.

From left: Producer Christopher McQuarrie, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Danny Ramirez, Glen Powell, Miles Teller, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connolly, Jon Hamm, Jay Ellis, Lewis Pullman, Greg Tarzan Davis, director Joseph Kosinski and producer David Ellison pose for the media during the ‘Top Gun Maverick’ UK premiere at a central London cinema on May 19. PHOTO: AP

The pandemic got in the way of those plans, however, and it was delayed several times.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and co-produced and co-financed by Skydance, the sequel reportedly cost USD152 million to make.

But even as the months, and years, went by and many other companies chose to compromise on hybrid releases, Cruise and Paramount didn’t waver on their desire to have a major theatrical release.

A streaming debut was simply not an option. “That was never going to happen,” Cruise said in Cannes.

And it is major, with 4,735 North American theatres (a record) showing Top Gun: Maverick. It also opened in 23,600 locations in 62 international markets.

“This is one of the longest runways for a marketing campaign for any film ever. And it only served to create more excitement around the movie,” said senior media analyst for Comscore Paul Dergarabedian. “This movie literally waited for the movie theatre to come back.”

The build-up has been just as flashy, with fighter-jet-adorned premieres on an aircraft carrier in San Diego and at the Cannes Film Festival, where Cruise was also given an honorary Palme d’Or, and a royal premiere in London attended by Prince William and his wife Kate.

“The feeling you get when you watch this film with an audience, it’s pretty special,” Aronson said. “The first big screening we had, there was spontaneous applause during the movie.”

Reviews have been stellar, too, with the film notching a 97 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, who were 58 per cent male, gave it an A+ CinemaScore, according to exit polls.

The new film has Cruise reprising the role of Maverick, who returns to the elite aviation training programme to train the next generation of flyers, including Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Greg Tarzan Davis, Danny Ramirez, Lewis Pullman and Jay Ellis. Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and Val Kilmer, reprising his role from the original, also star.

“This solidifies the notion that the movie theatre is a singular and a vitally important outlet for people,” Dergarabedian said. “People are looking for a great escape from everything that’s going on in the world right now.”

Maverick is now among the top pandemic era openings, still led by Spider-Man: No Way Home with USD260 million, followed by Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness with USD187 million and The Batman with USD134 million.

Notably, Top Gun: Maverick is the only non-superhero movie in the bunch. It also attracted a wide swath of age groups to the theatre.

An estimated 55 per cent of the audience was over 35.