Box Office: “Top Gun: Mavericks” debuted with $124 million

LOS ANGELES, May 29 (Variety.com) — Tom Cruise may have performed one of the most daring stunts of his career — taking audiences to a movie, not a superhero.

“Top Gun: Maverick” had a big opening weekend, taking in $134 million from a record 4,732 North American theaters. Paramount and Skydance’s all-American action-adventure is expected to collect $151 million on Monday, beating expectations and also setting a new high for the Memorial Day opening weekend. That’s thanks to dizzying reviews, tons of nostalgia, and getting Cruise back in the cockpit to perform real aerial stunts as pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is Cruise’s highest-grossing debut in his 40-year career, and his first to top $100 million in its opening weekend. “War of the Worlds” opened with $64 million in 2005 and had previously been Cruise’s biggest opening weekend.

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The over-40 audience, when Paramount gave the green light for the 1986 “Top Gun” sequel, came up with the most important people, which was impressive because this demographic was the least willing to return to theaters. The film’s positive word of mouth should help attract younger audiences who were still alive when “Top Gun” came out 36 years ago.

David A. Gross, who runs the film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research, called the film’s three-day numbers “remarkable.”

“The source material is still strong, the execution is very good, and Tom Cruise makes it work impeccably,” he said.

“Top Gun: Maverick” continued its stellar box-office record for Paramount, marking the studio’s fifth No. 1 release of the year. Without the help of comic books or rampaging dinosaurs, the studio’s 2022 roster — which also includes Sonic the Hedgehog ($182 million in North America), Lost City ($100 million in North America), The Scream ($100 million in North America), $81 million) and “Forever Fool” ($57 million in North America) – which resonated enormously in theaters. It’s an impressive rebound, as Paramount has released few movies during the pandemic, instead combining Chris Pratt’s “Tomorrow’s War,” director Aaron Sorkin’s “Trial of the Chicago 7” ” and blockbusters like Eddie Murphy’s “Upcoming 2 America” to streaming services.

American actor Tom Cruise arrives for the premiere of “Top Gun: Maverick” in London, England, on May 19, 2022.REUTERS/Henry Nichols/File photo

Despite numerous delays (the Top Gun sequel was slated for summer 2020 until COVID-19 disrupted those plans), Cruise insisted that Maverick wouldn’t follow in those films’ footsteps. Since the film received rave reviews, the two-year wait has begun to pay off. It has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and an “A+” for the movie.

Joseph Kosinski directed PG-13 “Top Gun: Maverick,” a film that restarts decades after the original and sees Maverick train a new group of cocky pilots for an important mission. The cast includes Miles Taylor, Glen Powell, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly and Val Kilmer, who played Iceman in the first Top Gun.

Top Gun: Maverick also needs theaters to justify its massive $170 million production budget, and that doesn’t include the tens of millions of dollars used to promote the film to global audiences. Those efforts included a high-profile premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, culminating in eight fighter jets flying over the Croisette (the French government paid for them). Skydance Media co-produced and co-financed the film.

Only one movie, Disney and the 20th-century “Bob Burger Movie,” dared to take on Top Gun: The Maverick. For a movie based on a long-running animated TV show, “Bob’s Burger Movie” delivered an impressive $12 million across 3,425 venues, enough to reach No. 3 at the box office. The film should end Memorial Day with $15.3 million.

“Bob’s Burger Movie” followed “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” dropping to No. 2 after three weeks at the domestic box office. Disney’s latest Marvel Cinematic Universe installment fell 50%, adding $16 million from 3,805 theaters in its fourth weekend of release. The superhero sequel starring Benedict Cumberbatch has grossed $375 million to date.

No. 4 “Downton Abbey: A New Age” has plunged 63% since its launch, taking in $5.9 million between Friday and Sunday. It is estimated to have grossed $7.5 million from 3,830 theaters by Monday. Two weeks after its theatrical release, the big-screen sequel to the beloved British TV show has grossed $30 million in North America and $68.9 million worldwide. The follow-up film cost $40 million to make, which means the latest Downton Abbey adventure has a long way to go before it can turn a profit.

Universal’s animated heist comedy “Bad Guys” made the top five from 2,944 locations with $4.6 million. By Monday, the family-friendly film should have made $6.1 million, which would bring its domestic box office to $82 million.

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