Box Office: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Is Playing Like ‘Passion Of The Christ’ And ‘American Sniper’

And… boom, just like that, Top Gun: Maverick is going to be Tom Cruise’s biggest domestic grosser. The Skydance/Paramount release earned another $25 million on Friday, down just 52% from its $52 million opening day (which counted $19.2 million in preview grosses) and bringing its domestic total to $230 million. The $170 million legacy sequel sits moments away from passing the $235 million lifetime cume of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. Yes, there’s inflation to be considered, Mission: Impossible’s $181 million cume would be around $375 million adjusted, but that may only be a caveat for another week or two.

The 52% Friday-to-Friday drop is as small as I could find for the post-Memorial Day weekend Friday among “big” openers since Madagascar (-42% after a $13.9 million Friday) and The Longest Yard (-46% from a $16.1 million opening Friday) in 2005. The comparison is not anything from Memorial Day weekend (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Fast & Furious 6, Solo the various X-Men movies, etc.) but rather Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

The Bradly Cooper war actioner/biopic opened wide (after 22 days of platform release) with an $89 million Fri-Sun/$107 million Fri-Mon MLK weekend debut in 2015. It fell just 40% to $18 million on its second “wide release” Friday and earned $64.6 million over the Fri-Sun frame, dropping just 28% and crossing $200 million by the end of that second wide-release weekend. Also dropping 40% on Friday #2 (after opening on a Wednesday) and $36 million in its second Fri-Sun frame was Passion of the Christ. That faith-based blockbuster opened with $128 million over its Wed-Sun debut in March of 2004 and ended with $370 million.

Those two films played huge both to general moviegoers and those who otherwise don’t generally/didn’t generally venture out to the multiplex for (almost) anything else. While Maverick is an entirely secular and bemusingly apolitical movie (drink every time someone says “the enemy” or “fifth-generation fighters”), it has hit paydirt with consumers who think that all Hollywood makes are comic book movies and liberal screeds. However inaccurate that might be, the film has been embraced as “one for us” among those who otherwise wouldn’t show up, as well as playing to Tom Cruise fans, regular moviegoers, and those who just want to see a well-oiled, non-fantastical, adult-skewing Hollywood blockbuster machine.

That all of these elements are in a rather wholesome and kid-friendlt package is icing on the cake. It’s simplistic (and unfair) to call Top Gun: Maverick “American Sniper for kids,” but… It is possible that, in terms of early legs, Top Gun: Maverick could play likewise. We can surmise a possible $85 million (-35%) second-weekend gross, bringing its ten-day cume to $290 million. If so, then A) the film will be just over/under American Sniper’s (and World War Z’s) $547 million lifetime gross and past any non-Mission: Impossible movie ever save for (for now) War of the Worlds ($600 million).

That (or anything over $250 million by Sunday) would make it already Cruise’s ninth-biggest grosser when adjusted for inflation, behind the $310-$440 million likes of Top Gun, Rain Man, The Firm, War of the Worlds, A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, Mission: Impossible and Mission: Impossible II. If it plays like those two “exception to the rule” smash hits, then it’ll earn over/under 1.74x its respective “end of weekend two” total. Presuming it grosses $85 million this weekend (which would be the biggest second-weekend gross ever for a film whose Fri-Sun opening gross was below $174 million), 1.73 x $290 million = $502 million.

Aladdin earned $356 million from a $186 million ten-day total, or 1.91x the second-weekend cume, but let’s not yet get carried away. If it legs out from here only like Men in Black III ($179 million/$111 million), it might have to settle for a mere $467 million domestic. Even a run like Puss in Boots (which opened with $34 million then dropped 3% in weekend two and 25% in weekend three before dropping off a cliff after Thanksgiving with $149 million total) still gets Top Gun: Maverick (presuming a 50% drop against Jurassic World: Dominion) just over/under $500 million.

Yes, these are crazy comparisons, but these are unthinkably strong day-to-day holds. While Jurassic World: Dominion is going to take away Top Gun: Maverick’s IMAX and PLF screens in much of the world next weekend, the Navy actioner is still uniquely positioned as the event movie of the summer for grown-ups. It’s got the buzz, the reviews, the word-of-mouth, the old-school “action drama about normal people” hook and everything else (including long legs for well-liked movies) already associated with Tom Cruise and the Top Gun franchise. To paraphrase a summer-of-2000 smash hit, I’m calling it a perfect storm.

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