Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun: Maverick'
Top Gun: Maverick took off last night with around $19.26 million in pre-release previews (including $4.1 million in IMAX alone). That includes the various early access/sneak preview showings before the “pure” Friday begins. To be fair, those Thursday previews started as early as 3:00 pm, but A) that’s how it’s been for a while now and B) it’s not like anyone who raced out to see it on Thursday wouldn’t have otherwise raced out to see it on Friday. Anyway, this is a spectacular start for Skydance and Paramount’s $170 million legacy sequel. It’s looking to shatter a few Tom Cruise-specific records over the holiday weekend. While there has been much chatter over the last week or so about how Cruise has never had a Fri-Sun opening above $65 million. However, A) he’s about to and B) he has had his share of box office records from the 1990s.
The $36 million debut of Interview with the Vampire in November of 1994 was A) the biggest non-summer launch ever and B) the biggest R-rated opening weekend ever at the time. Moreover, Brian DePalma’s Mission: Impossible opened with $45 million over a $75 million Wed-Mon Memorial Day weekend launch in 1996, which at the time surpassed Jurassic Park ($74 million from Friday to Wednesday in June of 1993) as the biggest six-day cume ever. Four years later, John Woo’s Mission: Impossible 2 would earn $58 million over the Fri-Sun part of its sky-high $92 million Wed-Mon debut over Memorial Day weekend in 2000. At the time, that $58 million Fri-Sun gross was behind only The Phantom Menace ($64 million over a $105 million Wed-Sun debut in May of 1999) and The Lost World ($74 million over a $92 million Fri-Mon Memorial Day weekend gross in 1997).
Tom Cruise ironically suffered his infamous PR meltdown (no he didn’t jump on Oprah Winfrey’s couch, but I digress) in the summer of 2005 while promoting Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. That flick still grabbed his biggest Fri-Sun gross ($64 million) ever amid its $100 million Wed-Sun debut and still stands as his biggest domestic earner ($234 million) and by far his biggest non-Mission: Impossible grosser ($603 million) worldwide. If this Thursday’s gross is any sign, the critically acclaimed and sure-to-be-crowd pleasing Joseph Kosinski-directed actioner is essentially opening like a 1990’s/2000’s Tom Cruise blockbuster on a modern-day inflationary curve. Cruise just set a new milestone for any Paramount preview grosses and a Memorial Day weekend preview gross ahead of Solo: A Star Wars Story ($14.1 million in 2018) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($13.2 million in 2007).
Okay, let’s do some math. Even if we assume that it’ll be a little frontloaded due to explicit fan interest and the wealth of pre-release previews, even Memorial Day weekend legs like Pirates 3 ($156 million Fri-Mon from a $13.2 million preview gross), A Quiet Place part II ($57 million/$4.8 million in 2021) or Fast & Furious 6 ($117 million/$10,4 million in 2013) gives it a $215-$225 million-plus holiday opening. Even legs like X-Men: Apocalypse ($79 million/$8 million) gives it a $190 million four-day opening. Frontloading like Solo still puts it over $135 million for the Fri-Mon frame, and I’d wager this will play better with general audiences than the unrequested Star Wars story. But essentially any Memorial Day comparison outside of Solo will easily give Cruise his first $100 million Fri-Sun debut and a near-record Fri-Mon Memorial Day weekend launch.
While the film is performing better now than it would have as just another 80’s nostalgia flick amid a conventional non-Covid summer 2020 release slate, it’s clear so far that Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is as much of a marquee character for Cruise as is Ethan Hunt. Unless these grosses are massively frontloaded, and I don’t see how (it’s a well-liked/well-received crowdpleaser with general audience appeal that is by default the event movie of the summer for grown-ups), Top Gun: Maverick looks to soar past the Mission: Impossible ceiling (Cruise’s biggest non-Ethan Hunt/non-War of the Worlds grosser is The Last Samurai with $456 million in 2003). It will continue Paramount’s astonishing theatrical hot streak, so I hope Brian Robbins sends Jim Gianopulos a basket of chocolates. As for me, I may not have to eat a show this weekend, but I will almost certainly have to feast upon some crow.