Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick”
This weekend Tom Cruise has a chance to do something he’s never done before — open a film to more than $100 million at the domestic box office.
The prolific actor, who has made a name for himself as a fearless stuntman, has generated more than $4.2 billion at the domestic box office since 1981, but has never had a film open to more than $65 million.
After several pandemic-related delays, Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” arrives in theaters this weekend with a 97% “Fresh” rating from Rotten Tomatoes and strong pre-sale tickets.
“At this point, I’m seeing very little reason not to expect a domestic opening weekend well over $100 million, a mark that the film will probably reach in its first three days,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “We’re not just talking about a new career best for Mr. Cruise, but also potentially some Memorial Day weekend records that may be going down.”
Robbins noted that there is a lot of pent-up demand for “Top Gun: Maverick.” Not only was it delayed several times due to Covid, but strong word of mouth from critics has generated renewed interest in the sequel to the 1986 original, a pop culture touchstone.
Box office analysts currently foresee a domestic opening of between $98 million and $125 million for the film.
Even if the film does not reach $100 million, it is still expected to become Cruise’s highest opening weekend domestically. His current record is 2005’s “War of the Worlds,” which snared $64.8 million, according to data from Comscore.
“We can mostly chalk that odd factoid up to the reality that Tom Cruise has rarely attached himself to blockbuster franchises commanding front-loaded debuts,” said Robbins. “The majority of his movies are built around star power and word of mouth generating long box office legs in a way that isn’t at the forefront of the industry’s mindset anymore.”
Robbins added that Cruise doesn’t often make sequels to movies. The exception being the Mission: Impossible franchise and a second Jack Reacher film in 2016. “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” which was released in 2018, is Cruise’s highest-grossing film, making $220 million domestically and $791.1 million globally. “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” is set to be released next year.
Additionally, $100 million box office debuts have only become commonplace in the last decade, as ticket prices have risen significantly and fan-driven franchises like Marvel and DC have enticed moviegoers to show up on opening weekend in droves. This year alone, as the movie theater industry tries to regain its legs after two years of pandemic restrictions, Warner Bros.’ “The Batman” and Disney’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” opened at over $100 million.
Cruise’s legacy at the box office is about longevity, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
“As one of the few stars who has built a career out of the long-term playability of his films, Cruise has changed the rules by not chasing the much coveted $100 million opening weekend, but rather the overall drawing power of his films over the long haul,” he said.
“To that end he has spent the last decade collaborating with great creative partners to produce some of the most entertaining movies to ever hit the multiplex,” Dergarabedian added.
Nearly half of Cruise’s 43 films have earned more than $100 million total during their runs at the domestic box office. His movies have generated more than $10.3 billion in ticket sales globally over the last four decades.
“As a movie producer Cruise understands the practical dynamics of strong box office results, but he also is plugged into the emotional connection that fans have with the visceral and cinematic power that only movies on the big screen can deliver particularly for his action-oriented films,” Dergarabedian said.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.