Why is ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ bigger than ‘Titanic’: it saved the movies

“Titanic” is still the biggest movie released by Paramount, but “Top Gun: Maverick” ranks higher in Hollywood history.

In the three months sinceTop Gun: Maverick“(Basic) open, her office box The domestic ($658 million) and foreign ($674 million) performance deserved almost all the hype. And when it hits $660 million domestically, “Maverick” will – in unadjusted numbers – become the largest Paramount release in its history, replacing the 1997 version of “Titanic.”

This is where the noise train stops. If you thought “Maverick” made more money than “Titanic”, you could also buy a home in Los Angeles today for $180,000 – the median home price in 1997. Inflation changes things and “Titanic” got its place when it was Average ticket price $4.59 – half the current average, last counted in 2019 at $9.17.

Top Gun: Maverick should end his domestic run with a domestic gross of between $700 million and $725 million. Based on adjusted numbers, this will land it somewhere between #4 and $7 among all Paramount releases, with “Titanic”, “The Ten Commandments” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” safely advanced; ‘The Godfather’, ‘Forrest Gump’ and ‘Grease’ are at risk, if they exceed $725 million.

Regardless, focusing on accomplishing magical thinking means overlooking a much greater success. “Maverick” joins some of Hollywood’s biggest hits — “Jaws,” “Thunderball,” “Star Wars,” “Easy Rider” and “The Robe” — that have done more than make a lot of money. Each has changed the way films are made and distributed.

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“Easy Rider”

Columbia / Cuba / Shutterstock

Here’s what makes “Maverick” more important than, say, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” with $805 million domestic and $1.097 million foreign. “Resident” is a sequel—albeit for a property that is more than three decades old—but it’s not a comic book or part of a traditional franchise. With a pre-marketing budget of $170 million, profit forecasts seemed inadequate. It’s been years since Cruz really clicked on anything outside of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise. It was unclear whether today’s audience would be familiar with the original “Top Gun,” and whether international audiences would appreciate a story set in the US military.

With great reviews, a sophisticated PR campaign led by Cruz himself, and a good first show for Cannes, it opened its doors to $126 million domestically in its first three days. That’s impressive – but what’s even more impressive is that it will end up with multiples of five to six times its opening. This is rare, especially for an opening of this scale. Among the exceptions that prove the rule are “Titanic” (x24) and “Avatar” (roughly x 10).

So not only is it the biggest movie of the year, it’s going to end up way ahead of the Marvel movies, “The Batman,” and the latest entry, “Jurassic World.” The success of the “dissident” competitors was assumed. It’s what the studios prefer to make, the costs involved ($200 million or more). Responsiveness to Maverick and its allure—contemporary human drama, established old-school star, older audience interest, word of mouth—is not the default.

Perhaps most important: So far, in its tenth week of play, there’s no immediate sign of it being available anywhere but in theaters. Studios are now a normal 45-day window, regardless of Universal (a PVOD release after the third or fifth weekend, depending on the opening total). Before Covid, the normal rollout was 75 days for PVOD, 90 days for video on demand and retail sales for DVD and Blu-Ray, with 120 days for physical rental.

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME, Left: Zendaya, Tom Holland as Spider-Man, 2021. © Sony Pictures Releasing / © Marvel Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Spider-Man: No Way Home”

© Sony Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

“No Way Home” spent less than three months as a theatrical-exclusive show before it went to PVOD. The equivalent of “Maverick” will be around August 20. No official announcement has been made, but sources indicate that its next platform(s) won’t come until after Labor Day.

Important note: Unlike Sony, Paramount has an internal broadcast device to feed it. The addition of “Maverick” after 45 days would be a boon to Paramount+ and follow in the footsteps of Disney and Warners. Continuing to favor theaters, for longer than any major movie in years, would have a tremendous impact.

Numbers and comparisons make for exciting titles and feel-good enough at a time when movies and theaters need an ego boost, but repeating the questionable claim that “The Dissident” is the studio’s biggest movie ever risks burying even more important accomplishments.

“Top Gun: Maverick”, probably more than any other film, saved the theatrical model. It became a must-see movie – and most importantly, a must-see in theaters.

This is a claim that no other Paramount film can make.

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