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Top Gun: Maverick Has One More Record to Break

It’s coming for the big boat movie. Photo: Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise didn’t want to make Top Gun 2. He’d long resisted Hollywood’s entreaties to reboot, remake, or “reinvent” the 1986 original. But after being persuasively pitched by director Joseph Kosinski in 2017 — and personally calling Paramount to notify the studio it would be distributing the movie — the superstar threw himself into the process as a performer and producer, pulling multiple Gs (while operating his own cameras in the cockpit of an F-18) to reprise his role as brash flying ace Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in what is arguably the foundational film of his A-list career.

“Tom described it as hitting a bullet with a bullet,” Kosinski said after the premiere of Top Gun: Maverick at CinemaCon in April. “We knew the bar was high.”

It’s fair to say that, at this point, the sequel — with a release pushed back five times between 2019 and 2022 — has more than achieved liftoff. Over the weekend, Maverick blasted past the $1 billion mark in worldwide ticket sales to become the most successful film of Cruise’s 40-year career. It’s 2022’s highest-grossing movie so far and only the second film of the N-95 era to join the three-comma club. (The other is, of course, Spider-Man: No Way Home.)

On the heels of an opening weekend that set a new bar for the Memorial Day corridor, drawing in the holdout moviegoing population of viewers older than 35, Maverick has morphed into a true four-quadrant crowd-pleaser — old and young, people of all genders, members of Gen X and their recalcitrant Zoomer children. It lost out to the flashy new Baz Luhrmann Elvis biopic by only $1 million last weekend in a testament to the military thriller’s supersonic staying power. In fact, Paramount says an impressive 16 percent of Maverick’s audiences have been repeat viewers.

“There haven’t been a lot of collective experiences lately,” says Paramount’s worldwide marketing and distribution president, Marc Weinstock. “It’s a movie that makes you cheer, laugh, cry, walk out of the theater happier than when you walked in. When you have something like this — with explosive word of mouth, like, ‘Oh, you’ve got to see it!’ — everyone needs to be in on the conversation.”

Maverick’s numbers — which would be impressive in a pre-pandemic summer, when moviegoer confidence levels weren’t stuck at 85 percent (according to the latest National Research Group survey) — are all the more dazzling considering the movie is selling roughly the same amount of tickets internationally as it is on this continent. (The last two Fast & Furious installments, by contrast, did around three-quarters of their business outside of the U.S. and Canada.) All this despite the movie being barred from theaters in the major movie marketplaces of China and Russia.

Currently the fourth most lucrative movie ever released by Paramount, however, Maverick has yet another bullet to hit with a bullet. If it stays in theaters into the fall, there is a strong chance Top Gun 2 could topple the $659 million domestic-box-office record long held by 1997’s Titanic as the biggest film in the studio’s 110-year history. Although the Oscar-winning epic-disaster romance still outpaces the fighter-pilot sequel with more than $2.2 billion in global grosses, Maverick has already taken in $525 million in North American ticket sales. And having returned to IMAX theaters last week by popular demand (after getting bumped by the less critically and commercially well-received presumed blockbusters Jurassic World: Dominion and Lightyear), Paramount is giving no indication it plans to pull the rip cord on Maverick’s theatrical run anytime soon.

“It’s rare to get the special kind of alchemy that creates a true event film,” Paramount CEO Brian Robbins said in a statement. “We have been absolutely blown away by the global response to Top Gun: Maverick.

Paramount has not yet announced when the movie will hit Paramount+, though it’s expected to land there eventually. The studio typically gives its films 45 days of exclusivity in theaters, meaning the movie would not be available to stream until at least mid-July. Its race to beat Titanic’s record could delay that substantially.

“The first Top Gun played for almost a year in theaters,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, points out. “That was obviously a much different time, when films opened in many fewer theaters and weren’t dealing with streaming and the different dynamics of the modern movie marketplace. But I think that, clearly, this is a movie that’s going to go against tradition by having the legs that movies enjoyed back in the ’80s.”

In an uncharacteristically terse tweet on Monday, Cruise expressed gratitude for Maverick’s hero’s welcome while more generally cheerleading theatrical moviegoing.

Top Gun: Maverick Has One More Record to Break