Top Gun: Maverick has taken flight at the box office, pulling in more than £196m worldwide and securing the biggest ever opening weekend for a Tom Cruise film.
Amid a post-pandemic malaise for the industry and fears audiences may never return to cinemas in huge numbers, the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster collected an estimated £151m (£119m) in the US.
Paramount and Skydance’s all-American action adventure was showing at a record 4,732 North American cinemas, its takings setting a new high watermark for Memorial Day opening weekends.
It follows a series of dazzling reviews for a nostalgia-laden film in which Cruise returns to the cockpit to perform real aerial stunts as pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.
The box office takings make it the 59-year-old superstar’s first $100m opening weekend.
“These results are ridiculously, over-the-top fantastic,” said Chris Aronson, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution.
“I’m happy for everyone. I’m happy for the company, for Tom, for the filmmakers.”
Though undeniably one of the biggest stars in the world, Cruise is not known for massive blockbuster openings.
Before Maverick, his biggest domestic debut was Steven Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds, which opened to $64m (£51m) in 2005.
Streaming debut ‘never going to happen’
Top Gun: Maverick had an extremely long journey to cinemas.
It was originally slated to open in the summer of 2020 – with its marketing campaign technically launching in July 2019, but was delayed several times due to the pandemic.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the sequel reportedly cost $152 (£120m) to make.
Even as years passed, and many other companies chose to compromise on hybrid releases, Cruise and Paramount did not budge on their desire for a major theatrical release – refusing to countenance a debut on a streaming site.
“That was never going to happen,” Cruise said at this month’s Cannes film festival.
Alongside the record number of North American cinemas showing the film, it also opened in 23,600 locations across the globe after what media analyst Paul Dergarabedian described as “one of the longest runways for a marketing campaign for any film ever”.
The build-up saw fighter-jet-adorned premieres on an aircraft carrier in San Diego and at Cannes, where Cruise was also given an honorary Palme d’Or, and a royal premiere in London attended by Prince William and his wife Kate.
Maverick holds its own against superhero behemoths
The new film has Cruise reprising the role of Maverick, who returns to train the next generation of pilots, including Miles Teller, Glen Powell, and Monica Barbaro.
Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and Val Kilmer, reprising his role from the 1986 original, also star.
Maverick is among the top pandemic-era openings, behind Spider-Man: No Way Home with $260m (£206m), Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness with $187m (£148m), and The Batman with $134m (£106m)
Notably, Maverick is the only non-superhero film on that list – and also attracted a wide range of age groups, with an estimated 55% of the audience over 35.
Cruise will be hoping for similar success with his next Mission: Impossible films, which have been largely filmed in the UK and are due for release in 2023 and 2024.