Tom Cruise earns his first $100 million startup with Top Gun: Maverick, originally slated for 2020

LOS ANGELES — Forget breaking the sound barrier: Tom Cruise just flew past a major milestone in his career.

The 59-year-old superstar just landed his first $100 million opening weekend with Top Gun: Maverick. In its first three days in North American theaters, the long-in-progress sequel has earned an estimated $124 million in ticket sales, Paramount Pictures said Sunday. Including international screenings, the worldwide total is US$248 million.

It’s a supersonic start for a film that, even on Memorial Day, still has wide open spaces to rake in even more money. According to forecasts and estimates, “Top Gun: Maverick” is expected to be over $150 million by the close of trading on Monday.

“These results are ridiculous, over the top fantastic,” said Chris Aronson, Paramount’s President of Domestic Distribution. “I’m happy for everyone. I’m happy for the company, for Tom, for the filmmakers.”

Though Cruise is undeniably one of the biggest stars on earth — perhaps “the last movie star” according to various headlines, he’s not known for massive blockbuster openings.

Before Maverick, his biggest domestic debut was 2005’s Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, which started at $64 million. After that, it was “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” at $61 million in 2018. It’s not that his films don’t make money in the long run: They just aren’t hugely anticipated.

Top Gun: Maverick has had an extremely long journey to theaters. The sequel to Tony Scott’s Top Gun, which was released in 1986, was originally slated for release in summer 2020. The marketing campaign technically started back in July 2019. However, the pandemic got in the way of those plans, 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 $152 million to make.

But even as the months and years went by and many other companies compromised on hybrid releases, Cruise and Paramount didn’t waver in their desire for a major theatrical release. A streaming debut just wasn’t an option.

“It could never have happened,” Cruise said in Cannes.

And it’s big, with 4,735 North American theaters (a record) showing Top Gun: Maverick. It has also opened in 23,600 locations in 62 international markets.

“This is one of the longest runways for a marketing campaign for a film ever. And it just served to create more excitement around the film,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “This movie has literally been waiting for cinema to come back.”

The buildup was just as eye-catching, with fighter-jet-decked premieres on an aircraft carrier in San Diego and at the Cannes Film Festival, where Cruise was also awarded an honorary Palme d’Or, and a royal premiere in London also attended by Prince William and his wife Kate.

“The feeling you get watching this movie with an audience is pretty special,” said Aronson. “The first big screening we had, there was spontaneous applause throughout the film.”

The reviews were also excellent, with the film scoring 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience, which was 58% male, gave it an A+ CinemaScore, according to Exit polls.

In the new film, Cruise reprises his role as the Maverick returning to the elite aviation training program to train the next generation of aviators including Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Greg Tarzan Davis, Danny Ramirez, and Lewis Pullman Jay Ellis. Also starring are Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and Val Kilmer, who reprises his role from the original.

“This reinforces the notion that cinema is a unique and vital outlet for people,” said Dergarabedian. “People are looking for a great escape from everything that’s going on in the world right now.”

Maverick is now among the top openings of the pandemic era, still led by Spider-Man: No Way Home at $260 million, followed by Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness at $187 million -Dollar and “The Batman” with $134 million.

Remarkably, Top Gun: Maverick is the only non-superhero film in the bunch. It also drew a wide range of age groups to the theatre. An estimated 55% of viewers were over 35 years old.

“Superhero movies aren’t for everyone. This film is for everyone and that’s what sets it apart,” said Aronson. “Theatrical exhibition business has challenges ahead, but this is a shot in the arm.”

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” was the only new release that dared to go up against “Top Gun”. The animated image, released by 20th Century Studios and Disney, grossed $12.6 million from 3,425 locations. It started in third place behind Doctor Strange 2, which grossed $16.4 million in its fourth weekend in theaters.

Until Jurassic World: Dominion premieres on June 10, Top Gun will essentially keep the sky to itself.

“There’s a really nice open marketplace to play with,” said Dergarabedian. “Tom Cruise has always been about consistency. His films are about the marathon. This is the first film of his to sprint to big box office numbers. Here he gets the sprint and the marathon.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday in US and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. The final domestic figures will be released on Tuesday.

1. “Top Gun: Maverick”, $124 million.

2. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” $16.4 million.

3. The Bob’s Burgers Movie, $12.6 million.

4. “Downton Abbey: A New Era”, $5.9 million.

5. “The Bad Guys,” $4.6 million.

6. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2”, $2.5 million.

7. “Everything, Everywhere at Once,” $2.5 million.

8. “The Lost City”, $1.8 million.

9. “Men,” $1.2 million.

10. “F3: Fun and Frustration,” $1 million.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Tom Cruise earns his first $100 million startup with Top Gun: Maverick, originally slated for 2020

Dais Johnston

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