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'Top Gun: Maverick' soaring to $150 million Memorial Day weekend debut

"There can be life beyond superhero movies," a box office analyst said.
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"Top Gun: Maverick" is projected to gross $151 million over the four-day holiday weekend, according to studio estimates released Sunday — a commanding haul that gives Tom Cruise his best-ever debut at the box office.

The sequel to the rocket-boosted 1986 blockbuster opened in 4,735 locations across the U.S. and Canada on Friday, making it the widest theatrical release in Hollywood history.

"Maverick" had pulled in $124 million by Sunday morning, according to estimates from Paramount Pictures.

The film was originally scheduled to debut in 2019, but the rollout was postponed so the filmmakers could spend more time shooting complex action sequences. The premiere was pushed to 2020, then delayed again (and again) as Covid spread across the U.S.

"We planted our flag on Memorial Day for this movie, and I think the results have borne that decision out to be a good one," Chris Aronson, the president of domestic distribution at Paramount Pictures, said Sunday.

The success of the film "represents an important moment for theaters" rattled by the financial toll of the pandemic, said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, a company that tracks box office data.

"There can be life beyond superhero movies," he added, "and though the ensemble of fighter pilots are indeed superheroes, the movie is a throwback to the big-screen storytelling of a bygone era."

“Top Gun: Maverick,” flying high on nostalgia for Tony Scott’s original action classic and Cruise’s generation-spanning star power, performed especially well among men, who represented nearly 60 percent of the opening weekend audience.

Fifty-five percent of the audience was over age 35, according to data compiled by the studio. (The sequel was directed by Joseph Kosinski, who worked with Cruise on the 2013 post-apocalyptic adventure "Oblivion.")

"Maverick" hands Cruise the mightiest opening gross of his four-decade screen career, topping the $64.8 million debut for Steven Spielberg's science fiction spectacle "War of the Worlds" in 2005, according to Comscore.

Paramount has been on a hot streak this year, helping to invigorate pandemic-battered multiplexes with titles such as "Scream," "Jackass Forever," "The Lost City" and "Sonic the Hedgehog 2."