The long-awaited “Tog Gun: Maverick” sequel to the previous hit “Top Gun” was delayed a couple of times due to COVID restrictions on theaters.

By Tribune Staff

NASHVILLE, TN — “Top Gun: Maverick” has proven that it’s still possible for a film to draw massive crowds during its opening weekend. The long-awaited Tom Cruise sequel that has been delayed multiple times due to COVID concerns soared over its first three days and will most likely set a Memorial Day Weekend record upon conclusion of the holiday period. The opening weekend saw it collect $134 million from a record 4,732 North American cinemas. 

The Paramount and Skydance production was expected to collect $151 million through Monday. At the international box office, the sequel to 1986’s “Top Gun” took flight with $124 million. Despite not showing in either China or Russia, “Top Gun: Maverick” has grossed $248 million worldwide. It’s the highest-grossing domestic debut in Tom Cruise’s 40-year career, and his first to surpass $100 million on opening weekend. “War of the Worlds,” which opened to $64 million in 2005, previously stood as Cruise’s biggest opening weekend.

It’s also one of the top pandemic-era openings after “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ($260 million), “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($187 million) and “The Batman” ($134 million).

Audiences over 40 years old turned out in force (55 percent of ticket buyers). But the film also managed to entice a significant percentage of millennial moviegoers — 45 percent of people were 35 or younger — who were not alive when “Top Gun” opened 36 years ago. The film’s positive word of mouth should be helpful in continuing to reach younger crowds.

Imax and 3D screens added to higher grosses for “Maverick,” with 22 percent of overall box office returns coming from premium formats. Imax alone is projected to contribute $21 million domestically and $32.5 million globally over the extended weekend.

“If you thought movies were dead, go see ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ and then let me know what you think,” Imax’s CEO Rich Gelfond told Variety. “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. There’s no way you sit in a theatre, with a huge screen and chest-pounding speakers, and come away thinking there’s any other way you want to experience ‘Top Gun: Maverick.’”

“I’m gratified we made this decision to hang on,” Paramount’s domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson said about keeping the film on the big screen. “This movie is going to have a huge run. It’s going to draw people to theaters who haven’t been in a long time.”

Joseph Kosinski directed the PG-13 “Top Gun: Maverick.” The cast includes Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly and Val Kilmer, who played Iceman in the first “Top Gun.”

Only one other major film, Disney and 20th Century’s “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” opened against “Top Gun: Maverick.” It did reasonably well, with $12.6 million from 3,425 venues, enough for third place on box office charts. The well-reviewed movie should finish the long Memorial Day weekend with $15 million.

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” landed just behind “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which dropped to No. 2 after three weeks atop domestic box office charts. Disney’s newest Marvel Cinematic Universe installment declined 50 percent to add $16.5 million from 3,805 cinemas in its fourth weekend of release. It’s expected to hit $21.1 million over the four-day frame. The superhero sequel, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, has generated $375 million in North America and a huge $868.7 million globally to date.

At No. 4, “Downton Abbey: A New Era” plunged 63percentfrom its opening, collecting $5.9 million between Friday and Sunday. It’s estimated to earn $7.5 million from 3,830 theaters by Monday. After two weeks in theaters, the sequel to the big-screen continuation of the beloved British television show, has grossed $30 million in North America and $68.9 million worldwide. The follow-up film cost $40 million to produce, meaning the latest “Downton” adventure has ways to go before getting into the black.

Universal’s animated heist comedy “The Bad Guys” rounded out the top five with $4.6 million from 2,944 locations. By Monday, the family friendly film should rake in $6.1 million, which will bring its domestic tally to $82 million.