“Titanic” is still the biggest movie released by Paramount, but “Top Gun: Maverick” holds a higher place in Hollywood history.
In the three months since Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” opened, its performance at the domestic box office ($658 million) and overseas ($674 million) deserved nearly all the credit. hype. And when it hits $660 million domestically, “Maverick” will become – in unadjusted numbers – the highest-grossing Paramount release in its history, replacing the 1997 release of “Titanic.”
This is where the hype train stops. If you think ‘Maverick’ made more than ‘Titanic’, you can also buy a house in Los Angeles today for $180,000 – the average price of a house in 1997. Inflation changes things and ” Titanic” earned its place when the average ticket price was $4.59 – half the current average, last calculated in 2019 at $9.17.
“Top Gun: Maverick” is expected to end its domestic run with $700-725 million domestic gross. Based on adjusted numbers, that would put it somewhere between #4 and $7 among all Paramount releases, with “Titanic”, “The Ten Commandments”, and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” safely ahead; ‘The Godfather’, ‘Forrest Gump’ and ‘Grease’ are vulnerable should they exceed $725 million.
All quibbles aside, focusing on a magical achievement is overlooking a far greater success. “Maverick” joins a handful of Hollywood’s biggest hits — “Jaws,” “Thunderball,” “Star Wars,” “Easy Rider” and “The Robe” among them — that have done more than make big money. Each changed the way films were made and distributed.
Here’s what makes “Maverick” bigger than, say, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” with its $805 million domestic and $1.097 million foreign. “Maverick” is a sequel – albeit from a property over three decades old – but it’s not a comic book or another part of a conventional franchise. With a premarket budget of $170 million, profit prospects looked uncertain; It’s been years since Cruise really clicked anything outside of his “Mission: Impossible” franchise. It was unclear whether today’s audiences remained familiar with the original “Top Gun” and whether international audiences would appreciate a story set in the United States military.
With stellar reviews, a cutting-edge PR campaign led by Cruise himself, and a well-played Cannes premiere, it opened to $126 million domestic in the first three days. That’s impressive – but even more impressive, it will end up with a multiple between five and six times its opening. That’s rare, especially for an opening of this magnitude. Among the exceptions that prove the rule are “Titanic” (x24) and “Avatar” (nearly x10).
So not only is it the biggest movie of the year, but it will wind up well ahead of the Marvel movies, “The Batman,” and the latest entry “Jurassic World.” The success of the “Maverick” contestants was anything but presumed. That’s what the studios prefer to do, the costs are damned ($200 million or more). The response to “Maverick” and its appeal – contemporary human drama, established old school star, older audience interest, word of mouth – is not the default model.
Perhaps most important is this: as of now, in the 10th week of its release, there’s no immediate sign of its availability anywhere other than in theaters. Studios now consider 45 days a normal window, with the exception of Universal (PVOD release after third or fifth weekend, depending on raw opening). Before Covid, the normal rollout was 75 days for PVOD, 90 for VOD and DVD and Blu-Ray retail sales, with 120 days for physical rentals.
©Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
“No Way Home” spent just under three months in theatrical exclusivity before moving to PVOD. The equivalent for “Maverick” would be around August 20. No official announcement has been made, but sources say its next platform(s) won’t come until after Labor Day.
A critical note is unlike Sony, Paramount has an in-house streamer to power. Adding “Maverick” after 45 days would be a boon for Paramount+ and would follow in the footsteps of Disney and Warners. Continuing to favor theaters, longer than any major movie in years, will have a huge impact.
Numbers and comparisons make for sexy headlines and feel-good boost at a time when movies and theaters need to boost their egos, but repeating the dubious claim that “Maverick” is the biggest movie ever ever-achieved studio risks burying greater accomplishments.
“Top Gun: Maverick”, probably more than any film, saved the theatrical model. It’s become a must-see movie, and more importantly, a must-see in theaters.
It’s the claim that no other Paramount film can make.