‘Top Gun’ sequel boosts hopes for summer movie revival

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Top Gun: Maverick hauled in $248 million worldwide in its opening weekend, offering hope to struggling theater owners for a summer box office revival after two lean years caused by the pandemic and a explosion of streaming services.

The action-thriller, a sequel to the 1986 film that made Tom Cruise one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, has been hailed by critics as a classic summer popcorn flick. It earned Cruise his first $100 million opening weekend – thanks in part to the actor’s tireless promotional efforts which included appearances in San Diego, Cannes, London – where the screening was attended by Prince William and his wife Kate – and in Japan.

The film was number one at the box office in the United States and worldwide, grossing $124 million in its first three days in North American theaters, and another $124 million internationally, said Paramount. It cost about $150 million to manufacture.

The strong opening justifies the decisions of Paramount Pictures and producer Skydance to suspend the film’s release for two years. Rival studios including Warner Bros. Disney have opted to release some of their most anticipated films on their streaming services during the outbreak, foregoing a larger theatrical release.

But Cruise and Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of the two Top Gun films, insisted that the film be released in theaters to feature the action sequences featuring jet acrobatics. Releasing the film on a streaming platform “would never happen,” Cruise said at Cannes, where it received an honorary Palme d’Or.

“We have always believed in the theater [releases] and this just confirms it,” Marc Weinstock, Paramount’s head of global marketing and distribution, told the FT. “Theatre isn’t dead – it’s great business.”

The pandemic box office was buoyed by younger audiences who flocked to see superhero films such as Spider Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and The Batman.

But Top Gun: MaverickAudiences have been wider, with young people joining older audiences who were fans of the original film 36 years ago. “Our largest single audience was 18 to 24,” Weinstock said. “A lot of our marketing was aimed at younger audiences. We knew older audiences already had it on their list.

In the United States, ticket sales for the first four months of the year were down 40% from pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019. Top Gun: Maverick the performance may lift studios’ hopes as they gear up for more high-profile releases — many of which are also sequels — this year. Universal Jurassic World: Dominion opens June 10, followed by Disney’s Light yeara sequel in the toy story series.

“If you thought movies were dead, go see Top Gun: Mavericksaid Rich Gelfond, general manager of IMAX, in a statement. “This film heralds the return of the summer blockbuster and is a catalyst that will accelerate demand for cinema like an F-18 breaking the sound barrier.”

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