At long last, Tom Cruise is entering the $100 million opening club.
Playing in 4,735 locations, the widest theatrical release in domestic box office history, “Top Gun: Maverick” is projected to earn $150 million over the holiday weekend. On a three-day scale, Paramount is predicting a $123 million haul. That’s easily a new record debut for Cruise, whose previous best — a $64.8 million opening for 2005’s “War of the Worlds” — is getting left in the dust.
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The legacy sequel to Tony Scott’s swoony 1986 original kicked off with a bang, drawing a $51.8 million opening day, including $19.3 million in Thursday previews. That’s a record for Paramount Pictures, outdoing the $51.2 million opening day of 2010’s “Iron Man 2.” “Maverick,” which was co-financed and co-produced by Skydance, originally carried a projected opening between $85 million and $100 million over the long weekend, though momentum has only grown since.
“Top Gun: Maverick” was originally set to premiere way back when in the summer of 2020, setting its release date long before COVID-19 had entered the vernacular of the public. As the pandemic caused studios to overhaul theatrical schedules, many major releases found new homes on streaming services. Paramount sold films like Aaron Sorkin’s eventual Oscar contender “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and Michael B. Jordan actioner “Without Remorse” to streamers, ending up on Netflix and Amazon, respectively. But “Maverick” wasn’t for sale, a decision Cruise has affirmed he was adamant on. After sitting tight for two years, Paramount’s egg is now hatching into a golden goose.
Cruise reunited with “Oblivion” director Joseph Kosinski for “Top Gun: Maverick.” Val Kilmer reprises his role as rival “Iceman” for the sequel, while Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and Ed Harris also star. The rest of the cast is filled out with the likes of Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman and Monica Barbaro, playing a crew of young pilots that Cruise’s Maverick is training for combat.
If projections for “Maverick” continue to expand, the film could become the best Memorial Day opening of all time, potentially unseating the $153 million debut of Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” in 2007.
Word on the street couldn’t be more auspicious for “Top Gun.” Paramount launched preview screenings weeks ago, beginning with a full premiere at CinemaCon in April, giving itself plenty of runway for buzz to build. Critics have been almost universally positive, with 97% of critics collected by Rotten Tomatoes offering their approval. Audiences are also loving the film, with “Maverick” scoring a maximum “A+” grade on CinemaScore.
In Variety‘s review, chief film critic Peter Debruge offered his own glowing endorsement, writing that Cruise “won’t get an Oscar for pantomiming such swallow-your-pride stoicism, though [he] deserves one for everything else the role demanded of him: If the flying scenes here blow your mind, it’s because a great many of them are the real deal, putting audiences right there in the cockpit alongside a cast who learned to pilot for their parts.”
With word-of-mouth and a holiday weekend ahead, there is still plenty of room for “Maverick” to grow. It remains to be seen how front-loaded the film’s opening weekend will be, though it would seem safe to assume that “Maverick,” a sequel to a decades-old action film, doesn’t carry the same “as-soon-as-possible” urgency among interested audiences as the fanbase of an average comic book adaptation. “Maverick” carries a hefty production budget of $170 million, not to mention costs accrued from a marketing blitz and two years of release delays, but returns are strong so far.
While “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” isn’t sizzling on the same level as “Maverick,” the weekend’s other new wide release isn’t performing half-bad in its opening either. The release by 20th Century Studios, a subsidiary of Disney, is projected to debut in third place after collecting $5.7 million from Friday and Thursday preview grosses.
H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, John Roberts and Kristen Schaal all reprise their voice roles as the members of Belcher family, who are tasked with keeping their business afloat in the face of a sinkhole and other supernatural occurrences. Production first began in 2017, long before Disney took on the project in its acquisition of 20th Century Fox.
The big screen adaptation of Fox’s long-running animated series, now heading into its 13th season, is projected to earn $19 million over the four-day holiday frame. It will be intriguing to see whether “Bob’s Burgers” turns out to be front-loaded in its box office run. Critics have been friendly and audiences have been appreciative, bestowing an “A” CinemaScore grade. Whether good word-of-mouth can travel beyond the dedicated fanbase of the series will determine numbers moving forward.
“Downton Abbey: A New Era” seems to be suffering from a failure to do exactly that. The Focus Features release is facing a sharp 60% drop in its second weekend, despite solid word-of-mouth. The adaptation of the popular TV series is expected to expand its domestic gross to $30 million through Monday, which is roughly half of what the first “Downton Abbey” movie made in the same amount of time. Whether it’s diminished enthusiasm for the property or older audiences turning to “Maverick” instead, the sequel won’t be repeating the nearly $100 million domestic run of its predecessor.
Disney’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” should take silver for the weekend, taking in an additional $4.4 million in its fourth Friday. The Marvel entry should expand its domestic gross to $375 million this weekend.
Rounding out the domestic box office’s top five is Universal’s animated romp “The Bad Guys.” The DreamWorks Animation production hasn’t been a massive box office draw, but the film is facing a soft drop in the three-day frame of 20%. Without any other animated release directly targeting young ones until Disney’s “Lightyear” in June, “The Bad Guys” should continue to draw business. The film has now earned $80 million domestically.
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