'Top Gun: Maverick' wins Tom Cruise 1st US$100mil opening


Critics say the sequel is worth the wait, with some calling it superior to the original film. Photo: Handout

Forget breaking the sound barrier: Tom Cruise just flew past a major career milestone.

The 59-year-old superstar just got his first US$100mil (RM436mil) opening weekend with Top Gun: Maverick.

In its first three days in North American theatres, the long-in-the-works sequel earned an estimated US$124mil (RM541mil) in ticket sales, Paramount Pictures said Sunday (May 29).

Including international showings, its worldwide total is US$248mil (RM1.08bil).

It’s a supersonic start for Top Gun: Maverick which soared further with the highest-ever Memorial Day weekend opening by raking in an impressive US$156mil (RM683mil) in North America in its first four days of release.

"These results are ridiculously, 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.”

Actor Tom Cruise reacts next to fellow cast and crew members during the premiere of 'Top Gun: Maverick' in London, Britain May 19, 2022. Photo: ReutersActor Tom Cruise reacts next to fellow cast and crew members during the premiere of 'Top Gun: Maverick' in London, Britain May 19, 2022. Photo: Reuters

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 US$64mil.

After that it was Mission: Impossible Fallout with US$61mil 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.

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 US$152mil 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 Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore.

"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% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, who were 58% 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 program 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 US$260mil, followed by Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness with US$187mil and The Batman with US$134mil.

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% of the audience was over 35.

"Superhero movies aren’t for everybody. This movie is for everyone and that’s what sets it apart," Aronson said. – AP

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