Top Gun: Maverick‘ is enjoying phenomenal box-office success, which Variety has noted as a strange occurrence in the present day and age when such collections are only seen in superhero movies. 

The Tom Cruise-starring sequel to the 1986 movie, saw a strong opening weekend, bringing in $134 million from 4,732 North American cinemas. The action-adventure from Paramount and Skydance is expected to make another $151 million through Monday. 

Not only does this defy expectations, but also sets the movie up to make a Memorial Day opening weekend record. Currently, the holiday record is held by Disney’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End‘, which was released over the long weekend in 2017, and made $153 million. 

Money talks 

Apart from the movie’s domestic box office success, it has also seen great response overseas. It took off with $124 million and has grossed a total of $248 million worldwide. This is impressive considering the movie isn’t playing in some of the world’s largest markets – China and Russia. 

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The film has also become the highest-grossing domestic debut in Cruise’s career of 40 years. It is his first film to pass $100 million on the opening weekend, the previous being ‘War of the Worlds’ which made $64 million in 2005.

Nostalgia and the thrill of dogfights 

The reason for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ making a stratospheric dash for box office collections is partly due to the nostalgia that comes with the film title. Dazzling reviews and Cruise returning to the cockpit as Pete Mitchell, have also drawn moviegoers. 

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ uniquely appeals to viewers across demographics. Audiences over 40 make up 55% of ticket buyers, which is impressive considering this was the age group most unwilling to return to theatres. However, when one considers that many among them must have grown up watching Cruise’s Maverick speed along the roads of Burbank, California, with Kenny Loggins’ ‘Highway to the Danger Zone’ playing in the background, the pull to watch Cruise reprise the role after all these years becomes understandable. 

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The new movie from Joseph Kosinski, who previously worked with Cruise in the 2013 film ‘Oblivion’, includes enough aerial combat and cool stunts to draw millennials as well, with 45% of ticket buyers being 35 or below. These individuals are influenced more by positive reviews, than nostalgia, since they weren’t alive when the original came out 36 years ago. 

A push from premium formats 

David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, a movie consulting firm, told Variety “The source material remains strong, the execution is excellent, and Tom Cruise makes it work impeccably well”. 

IMAX and 3D screens are also contributing to the movie’s collection, making up 22% of the total box office returns. 

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Imax’s CEO Rich Gelfond told Variety, “If you thought movies were dead, go see ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ and then let me know what you think”, adding, “This film heralds the return of the summer blockbuster and is a catalyst that will accelerate demand for moviegoing like an F-18 breaking the sound barrier.” 

Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell – the superhero 

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ has one of the top post-pandemic era openings, after ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home‘, ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness‘, and ‘The Batman‘. 

No wonder, Variety has made the argument that the film has seen box office success despite not being a superhero movie. However, ‘Taxi Driver’ scriptwriter and ‘First Reformed’ director Paul Schrader after watching the film, said on Facebook, “He’s the human embodiment of the other avatar dominating screens: the superhero”, referring to Cruise’s Maverick. 

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Considering the stunts Maverick the pull off, the near-impossible odds he beats, and how he remains steady as a rock in all aerial combat, while his contemporaries seem to be all too human, losing nerves and battles, does make him a superhero-like character. 

Moreover, the original ‘Top Gun’ and the sequel are feel-good movies, touching upon themes of friendship, courage, love, and loyalty to one’s country – making it the ideal recipe for a summer blockbuster, a concept largely introduced by Steven Speilberg during ‘Jaws’.