“Top Gun” soars to a box-office record, proving the big screen’s back — for big franchises anyway

Wednesday, June 1, 2022 by Robinhood Snacks |

Tom Cruise to the rescue… 36 years after the original “Top Gun” premiered, “Mav” is back in the cockpit — and not a moment too soon for the movie biz. “Top Gun: Maverick” opened to $156M at the US box office, a new Memorial Day-weekend record. After being postponed several times because of the pandemic, “Top Gun” may signal a summer movie rebound:

  • Takeoff: Shares of Paramount, which produced the film, rose more than 1% yesterday, and shares of theater giants AMC and IMAX also jumped (before flattening out later).
  • Dad-nip: Most “Top Gun” watchers were older than 35 (and male), a shift from recent flicks like “The Batman” that were hotter with younger audiences.

It’s a big win for the big screen… The theater industry has come a long way since its 40-year sales low in 2020, but it will never again look like it did pre-pandemic. The reason: Hollywood studios have branched out their strategies beyond the theater.

  • “Day-and-date” is dead: Studios like Warner Bros. and Comcast’s Universal have released movies simultaneously in theaters and to stream during the pandemic. But the strategy angered talent and flopped at the box office.
  • The future’s mixed: Universal plans to release mass-market films in theaters (think: “Jurassic World”) and more niche flicks straight to streaming (think: a LeBron biopic that appeals to younger viewers).

The theatrical bar has been raised… Hollywood may push sequels and sure-fire hits to big screens, since iconic characters (Batman) and huge stars (Tom Cruise) are more likely to deliver returns on investment than new, unproven stories. But Paramount, Disney, and Universal also compete for streaming subscribers, not just theatergoers. So they may test out riskier films on their streaming platforms first, since a surprise streaming hit could yield subscriptions, or even a big-screen sequel.