It’s finally here! After several delays due to the pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick is ready to take flight over the long Memorial Day weekend. This is a sequel that is 36 years in the making and fans feeling nostalgic for the first film will certainly have their butts in the seats this weekend but stellar reviews and a thirst for action and spectacle that doesn’t have the Marvel label attached to it will also entice other moviegoers. What we’re looking at here is the perfect storm to give Tom Cruise the biggest opening weekend of his career.
I’ll be honest with you when I say that this was gearing up to be my toughest prediction since starting this weekly look at the box office. I had concerns that the delay was too long and could affect numbers while I also wondered if the sequel had the potential to break out beyond fans of the 1986 original. That all changed after I saw the film for myself at an early press screening two weeks ago and I was simply wowed by what I saw. This wasn’t just popcorn entertainment. The sequel had a beating heart that is equal parts wonder and spectacle. It works as a love letter to its predecessor while also carving out its own story to welcome the uninitiated. Once the early reviews poured in, I realized that just about everyone else felt the same. With 212 reviews counted, Top Gun: Maverick sits with an outstanding 97% fresh rating and the audience score, based on early screenings, is just a notch higher at 98%. I’m not kidding you when I say that this is a sequel in the same lane as Aliens or Terminator 2 in terms of being better than its predecessor. The response to Top Gun: Maverick is going to be HUGE but before we get carried away, it’s not going to be on the level of a heavily hyped Marvel release. That really isn’t the goal. Top Gun: Maverick is going to be huge on a level for an action film that has old-school sensibilities and is looking to prove that these kinds of films still work in the marketplace.
According to Deadline, awareness for Top Gun: Maverick is very high. Fandango reports that the Top Gun sequel is seeing the best pre-sales of Tom Cruise’s career and the main demographic, older men, has shown that they aren’t afraid to head to the movie theater for the right movie. The groundswell for Top Gun: Maverick has been building for the last month. There was an April preview for the film at CinemaCon which is where the press praise first began. This was followed by a San Diego naval base world premiere on the aircraft USS Midway. Then there was the huge splash at the Cannes Film Festival last week where Cruise received a surprise Palme d’Or while French fighter jets streamed above the Palais premiere. This is a global rollout fit for a true movie star and this could solidify that Cruise is probably one of the true legitimate movie stars we have left. He cares about the craft. He’s dedicated to realism and his name alone can still get people to go out and watch a movie. There aren’t many people out there with that kind of pull, especially while also having the range to give completely nuanced performances. The actor may have fallen into being an action star in recent years but let’s not forget that Tom Cruise is a three-time Academy Award nominee that has had one varied filmography.
I’m not saying that Top Gun: Maverick is a one-man show because the ensemble is stellar across the board and some of them, like Miles Teller, will be key in pulling in younger audiences. I’m just pointing out that NO ONE, maybe other than Dwayne Johnson, promotes a movie like Tom Cruise. He cares about the theatrical experience and he’s really making movies for the audience. He wants you to see this film on the biggest screen possible. He wants you to feel the film’s adrenaline rush. He wants you to feel the film’s humanity. This is something audiences will connect with and it will go a long way for one stellar weekend.
Cruise’s previous biggest three-day opening weekend is 2005’s War of the Worlds, which opened at $64.8 million. That film actually opened over an extended July 4th launch that began on Wednesday, June 29th of that year. Even just looking at the film’s tracking, which is at $80 million+, Top Gun: Maverick will soar beyond that. I’m predicting an opening of $95 million over Memorial Day weekend but I won’t be surprised if it takes flight over that total. Also, the sequel is opening in 62 foreign markets, leaving out China and Russia, but its global footprint will also be huge. It’s possible that Top Gun: Maverick could have a $185 million+ worldwide opening.
There is another film opening in the wake of Top Gun: Maverick and it’s sure to appeal to its fanbase but where it goes beyond that, is yet to be determined. The Bob’s Burgers Movie, which was also delayed due to COVID, is hitting the big screen this weekend. The film is based on the cult Fox TV animated series and that cult following should show up this weekend in a moderate way. I’m not sure the movie will get a response outside the fanbase of the show but fans of Bob’s Burgers are pretty passionate and I think there is a desire amongst them to catch the transition from the small screen. Reviews are also impressive at 92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing so it looks like fans will be pleased with the final result. I’m calling a $13 million opening for The Bob’s Burgers Movie, landing it in third behind the fourth weekend of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness will get a hit from Top Gun: Maverick and will settle for second place after an impressive three-week run at number one. The tentpole audience will be moving on to Maverick but the Marvel sequel won’t completely crater this weekend, thanks mostly to the Memorial Day weekend bump which should aid most of the films within the top five. I’m calling a $15 million fourth weekend for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Fourth and fifth place should see Downton Abbey: A New Era and The Bad Guys. Downton had a little of a fanbase rush last weekend and, despite underperforming a tad by some standards, the $16 million opening weekend still showed that the older female fanbase will come out for the right project. I’m thinking the holiday weekend will allow the film to not drop off more than half of its opening audience so I’m going with a prediction of $8 million for its second weekend. The Bad Guys should round out the top five with a gross of $5.5 million or probably a tad more as it’s still the top choice for families at the multiplex.
What are YOUR predictions for this weekend’s box office?
TOP FIVE BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS: