As somewhat expected, Paramount undershot the second weekend gross for Top Gun: Maverick, with the legacy sequel earning $90 million instead of $86 million. That’s a drop of just 28.5%, still a record for A) any $100 million-plus opener and B) any second weekend gross for a film that opened below $174 million (Beauty and the Beast earned $90.4 million in weekend two). The $170 million film has earned $296 million domestic and $550 million worldwide, already becoming Tom Cruise’s biggest domestic earner (sans inflation but give it time) and his fifth-biggest worldwide earner (again, sans inflation) behind War of the Worlds ($600 million) and the last three Mission: Impossible films.
It’s a thunderous win for Tom Cruise and Paramount, but it could provide a boost to a rival studio’s summer biggie. Will Warner Bros.’ Austin Butler-starring Elvis get a Top Gun boost? One of the best pieces of marketing any movie can have is a good trailer attached to a demographically friendly hit. Think, offhand, the teaser for Deep Impact playing before every showing of Titanic, the “celebrity roll-call” teaser for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief playing before Avatar, the DMV-centric Zootopia playing before Star Wars: The Force Awakens or the Get Out trailer playing alongside M. Night Shyamalan’s Split.
One issue with non-tentpole movies struggling in theaters over the last several years is how hard it can be for the marketing for regular movies to reach an audience. If consumers don’t see regular movies theatrically, they don’t see the trailers for other non-tentpole movies. If they don’t watch commercial television, nor do they see television spots. That’s triple the case for R-rated movies, which are comparatively limited in terms of how and when they can be marketed. It’s just one reason I get super cranky when writers and pundits blame “bad marketing” when a non-tentpole film they liked/championed bombs at the box office. But I digress.
Top Gun: Maverick is massively overperforming, and it’s pulling in (at least domestically) a comparatively large number of older moviegoers and those who don’t generally visit theaters to see anything or at best just take their kids to the newest IP/franchise tentpole flick. This influx of irregular and older moviegoers (66% Caucasian, 58% male, 55% over 35 on opening weekend), the kind that a big-budget biopic of Elvis Prestley co-starring Tom Hanks as the Colonel might be targeted at, showed up to Tom Cruise’s Top Gun sequel and (in most cases) were exposed to the theatrical trailer for Elvis.
Will the deluge of “haven’t been to a movie in ages” Top Gun fans be impressed enough both by the theatrical experience and by the Elvis trailer to consider checking it out on June 24? I’m not sure, and this isn’t a prediction, but I’m more optimistic about the Baz Luhrmann-directed biopic’s chances than I was two weeks ago. The surprising performance of Top Gun: Maverick may well be a boon to the other “big grown-up movie of the summer” both in terms of direct marketing exposure and reacclimating certain demographics with the theatrical experience.
Or maybe Elvis is fated to be more blogged about/discoursed than seen, and the Internet won’t understand the connection between Elvis underwhelming and Warner Bros. hyper-focusing on DC Comics flicks. Still, I choose optimism and Warner Bros. has a long track record (Magic Mike, The Conjuring, Gravity, The LEGO Movie, American Sniper, It, A Star Is Born, Joker, Dune, etc.) of turning less-conventional “event movies” into theatrical hits. Simplification/optimistic hyperbole alert, but if Top Gun 2 really did get older/infrequent audiences back into the multiplexes and potentially make them more frequent moviegoers, well, maybe Tom Cruise really did save movie theaters.