After a wait of 36 years, Tom Cruise’s TOP GUN sequel finally took flight this Memorial Day weekend. With a three-day opening of $124M, TOP GUN: MAVERICK shot far past the best opening of all prior Tom Cruise movies, with the former record held by WAR OF THE WORLDS which opened with a three-day gross of $64.8M on July 4th weekend in 2005.
TOP GUN: MAVERICK’s journey over the last few years has been particularly difficult. The film had originally been scheduled to open in the summer of 2019 but was first delayed by the ever-increasing demands to deliver advanced special effects. This was followed by further delays due to the impact of COVID-19, when it landed in March 2020. Doubt began to creep in about the timeliness of this sequel, with some suggesting that Tom Cruise at the age of 59 had lost much of his hot-shot appeal, and could no longer draw enough of his mature fans to theatres to make the sequel a blockbuster success.
Phooey! We’re talking about Tom Cruise here, a movie star of the first magnitude No actor markets his pictures quite like Tom Cruise, and his efforts to promote TOP GUN: MAVERICK was above-and-beyond. The movie had four different “premieres”, starting in late April at the theatre owners’ conference CinemaCon in Las Vegas, followed by a military salute aboard the USS Midway aircraft carrier on May 5th, receiving a five-minute standing ovation at the Cannes International Film Festival on May 18th, culminating with a Royal premiere in London on May 20th.
This drumbeat of pre-opening events kept the film front-and-center for a full month in the global entertainment news and on social media, with dramatic results for the picture’s opening. Both critics and audiences loved the picture, voting near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes scores of 97% and 99% respectively. Cruise knows his audience better than anyone, and his success in energizing the 45+ demo to return to theatres is a mighty accomplishment. With two more MISSION IMPOSSIBLE films arriving over the next few years, both he and his studio partner Paramount had a lot riding on MAVERICK. Given this weekend’s results, both the star and studio are standing in the winner’s circle and expect a long and profitable run to follow.
This weekend’s other wide opener was THE BOB’S BURGERS MOVIE, which grossed $12.6 and finished in third place. This result was right in line with expectations and broadened the moviegoing audience by pulling in a family demographic that was less interested in TOP GUN’s action. After three weeks of first-place finishes, Marvel’s DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS fell to second place, with a gross of $16.4M, a respectable 49% drop from last week.
DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA fell off steeply in its second week, earning $5.9M, a 63% drop from last week’s opening. This was not unexpected, since much of its core older demographic overlapped with TOP GUN: MAVERICK’s audience.
Needless to say, the Memorial Day weekend is very important to the industry. This year’s holiday weekend grossed $175M, coming in at 97% of the same weekend in 2019 when ALADDIN debuted with $90M. The very healthy comparison bodes well for the industry, with Tom Cruise and TOP GUN: MAVERICK showing up at the perfect time.