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Memorial Day weekend has often been one of the busiest periods of the year throughout theatrical exhibition’s history, and that will ring true again with the long awaited launch of Top Gun: Maverick.
Just one year ago, moviegoing’s recovery was in its early stages as major markets reopened in time for A Quiet Place Part II‘s theatrically exclusive release over the May holiday frame – a pivotal moment on the long pandemic road to the rebound of movie theater attendance.
One year later, significant progress has since been made by way of multiple blockbusters spread throughout 2021 and early 2022. Of the many films delayed over the past two years, though, few have been more prolific or prominent than Tom Cruise’s follow-up to what was the biggest film of 1986 and a role that cemented his eventual decades-long star status.
Now, Maverick is finally here.
Long range tracking has been nothing short of encouraging with models pushing its trajectory higher and higher. Pre-pandemic, the film was expected to become a major blockbuster in the summer of 2020. Now, as a film that could bring back many Generation Xers and Baby Boomers to theater for one of – if not their first – trips back to a theater since 2019, the Top Gun The sequel is modeling near or above where it once was when tracking and marketing first began nearly three years ago.
Social media footprints are through the roof compared to any prior Mission: Impossible film or the recent No Time to Dieand since pre-sales started last month, the film has only continued to move box office goalposts higher and higher.
Although leaning on a majority male audience as a military action film, Cruise has historically had a strong pull with adult women both domestically and internationally. This film’s natural appeal to middle America and military families is further underscoring how widespread interest is.
Cruise’s promise of more death-defying, practical stunts and visual accomplishments is a big component in the ballooning excitement around the sequel. Compounding the buzz are ecstatic reviews from critics and industry screenings over the past month as the film holds an incredible 97 percent Rotten Tomatoes score from 189 critics.
Where box office projections become inevitably volatile is within the reality that pandemic consumer behaviors have shifted the modeling of certain films.
For example, strong advance sales for No Time to Die indicated a higher performance than ended up coming to fruition last fall – though it was still a healthy performer all around and falls into an arguably different category of franchise sequel. Dune Similarly drew robust pre-sales (mostly in premium formats), though modeling better accounted for that with a fan-driven box office performance on par with expectations.
Top Gun: Maverick is in a different league altogether, though, with advance sales rivaling those of a three- or four-quadrant film such as The Batman but far less of a presumed fan rush that would create significant front-loading.
Muddying the waters even more are Tuesday Early Access and Wednesday AMC Investor Connect screenings for Maverickwhich will no doubt be added to the weekend total by Paramount.
Even then, however, Thursday and true weekend sales look strong. The holiday itself will inflate Sunday, and the film’s strong draw for a premium screen experience means average ticket prices are soaring. Buzz across the social media sphere is incredibly positive, although the X factor remains in how well a sequel to a 36-year-old film will immediately draw in younger audiences.
Potential Benchmarks for Cruise and Memorial Day Weekend
While Cruise has never opened a film over $ 100 million domestically in a single weekend (mostly due to his aversion of sequels and the nature of how the business has changed since his peak years as a consistent big screen presence), Maverick is on a clear path to change that. In fact, it’s within reason for this sequel to approach or exceed all-time Memorial Day weekend records if it stays on its current path and draws strong walk-up business with casual moviegoers.
The current Memorial records? Those belong to 2007’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End with the biggest three-day ($ 114.7 million) and four-day openings ($ 139.8 million) ever for the holiday. Notably, both of those figures exclude 13.2 million from Thursday shows. It wasn’t common practice for studios to include pre-midnight earnings in the weekend performance of a film fifteen years ago, but things have changed since then.
Another close barometer for Maverick could be Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skullwhich opened one year after the Pirates trilogy-capper with a $ 100.1 million three-day and $ 126.9 million four-day – again excluding its own Thursday grosses of $ 25.0 million. Like this Top Gun follow-up, Crystal Skull was a long-anticipated sequel to a star-driven, iconic pop culture property not seen since the 80s.
By the end of their respective long Memorial Day weekends, At World’s End amassed $ 153 million domestically and Crystal Skull was just behind it with 152 million.
Paramount is notably releasing Maverick as the widest theatrical launch in history at 4,732 locations this weekend, besting the prior opening weekend record of 4,725 by 2019’s The Lion King remake. Following the aforementioned Tuesday and Wednesday sneaks, traditional previews begin at 3pm on Thursday.
The studio is setting expectations at a conservative level with expectations of a $ 92 million four-day bow.
On the counter-programming side, Disney will distribute 20th Century Studios’ The Bob’s Burgers Movie at an estimated 3,400 locations this weekend. Social footprints are solid with the television series’ fan base, something also reflected in pre-sales since they began last week.
Nevertheless, the main play here is toward young millennials, Gen Zers, and perhaps some families with an animated comedy that could end up somewhat front-loaded. Reviews are also highly encouraging with a 93 percent score from 46 Rotten Tomatoes critics.
Previews for Bob’s Burgers begin at 5pm on Thursday. Disney expects a four-day start between 10 million and 14 million.
Opening Weekend Ranges
Top Gun: Maverick
3-Day Opening Weekend Range: $ 120 – 145 million
4-Day Opening Weekend Range: $ 143 – 177 million
The Bob’s Burgers Movie
3-Day Opening Weekend Range: $ 8 – 12 million
4-Day Opening Weekend Range: $ 9.5 – 15 million
Weekend Forecast & Location Count Projections
Current projections call for a 130 to 165 percent increase (3-day) from last weekend’s $ 71.5 million top ten aggregate. That would also represent a 17 to 36 percent increase (4-day) from Memorial Day weekend 2019’s $ 173.1 million top ten aggregate.
|Film||Distributor||3-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, May 29||3-Day% Change from Last Wknd||4-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Monday, May 30||Location Count Projection (as of Wed)|
|Top Gun: Maverick||Paramount Pictures||130,000,000||130,000,000||NEW||$ 156,000,000||$ 156,000,000||4,732|
|Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness||Disney & Marvel Studios||$ 14,600,000||$ 368,500,000||-55%||$ 19,000,000||372,800,000||4,000|
|The Bob’s Burgers Movie||20th Century Studios (Disney)||9,600,000||9,600,000||NEW||$ 12,000,000||$ 12,000,000||3,400|
|Downton Abbey: A New Era||Focus Features||$ 7,600,000||29,500,000||-52%||9,700,000||$ 31,500,000||~ 3,820|
|The Bad Guys||Universal Pictures & DreamWorks Animation||5,100,000||$ 81,800,000||-17%||6,900,000||$ 83,600,000||~ 3,200|
|Sonic the Hedgehog 2||Paramount Pictures||2,800,000||$ 185,400,000||-32%||$ 3,800,000||186,400,000||~ 2,500|
|Everything Everywhere All at Once||A24||2,200,000||$ 56,100,000||-30%||2,900,000||$ 56,800,000||~ 1,350|
|Men||A24||500 1,500,000||5,900,000||-55%||$ 1,900,000||6,300,000||~ 2,212|
|The Lost City||Paramount Pictures||$ 1,100,000||101,100,000||-28%||$ 1,400,000||$ 101,300,000||~ 1,000|
|Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore||Warner Bros. Pictures||$ 1,000,000||95,000,000||-49%||$ 1,200,000||95,200,000||~ 1,000|
* All forecasts are subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.
Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios. The above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and / or an intention to report box office returns prior to publishing.