The rest of the top ten sees standard-to-superlative weekends all around!
Memorial Day Weekend Box Office Top 10 (May 27th-May 30th) / 3-Day Weekend Gross / 4-Day Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Weekend Estimates:
- Top Gun: Maverick / $126.7 million / $156 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Paramount Pictures
- Doctor Stranger in the Multiverse of Madness / $15.85 million / $20.5 million / -49% / Weekend 4 / Disney
- The Bob’s Burgers Movie / $12.6 million / $14.8 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Disney (20th Century Studios)
- Downton Abbey: A New Era / $5.75 million / $7.5 million / -64% / Weekend 2 / Focus Features
- The Bad Guys / $4.34 million / $6.1 million / -29% / Weekend 6 / Universal (DreamWorks)
- Everything, Everywhere, All At Once / $2.51 million / $3.18 million / -20% / Weekend 10 / A24
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2 / $2.43 million / $3.12 million / -40% / Weekend 8 / Paramount Pictures
- The Lost City / $1.83 million / $2.3 million / +17% / Weekend 10 / Paramount Pictures
- Men / $1.22 million / $1.53 million / -63% / Weekend 2 / A24
- F3: Fun and Frustration / $1.04 million / $1.2 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Independent Indian
21. Freakscene – The Story of Dinosaur Jr. / $19K / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Utopia ($9,537 per theater in 2 theaters)
25. A Chiara / $4,377 / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / NEON ($2,189 per theater in 2 theaters)
By Jove, he’s done it! Like Sandra Bullock mere months ago (and for the same studio nonetheless), Tom Cruise reasserted his movie star status this weekend while also adding another notch to his belt with his best opening weekend ever. Paramount overall continues its winning streak this year with its fifth number one opening weekend and by claiming only the third opening weekend of the year of over $100 million. Whether it’s savvy on the part of the new executive regime at the studio or simply capitalizing on an empty corridor in the release schedule, Paramount continues to solidify a genuine return to form after years of mediocrity; and the fact that they’re doing it with a solid mix of brand recognition and genuine movie stardom is amazing to behold. Overall, the box office this weekend was quite healthy with many holdovers continuing to do solid business, another newcomer doing surprisingly well, and other films that were already not doing great continuing that pattern (though there’s a caveat there so put a pin in it).
First off, of course, I have to admit that my reservations about Top Gun: Maverick were unfounded as it managed to pull in over $100 million in the 3-Day weekend frame. Specifically, where I had seen it likely opening to around $80-100 million in three days, the film drastically outperformed my expectations to deliver $126.7 million in three days and $156 million in four days. I described why I had reservations in my last post, but overall it boiled down to two factors: Tom Cruise having never opened a movie with more than $64 million and the general perception of the original Top Gun in this day and age. Tom Cruise’s record of opening movies was a bit less of a concern as those kinds of records are broken all the time but I did feel it was a hindrance specifically given that the property in question. Top Gun is an incredibly famous film from the 80s but also generally considered, especially by people ages 18-34 today (the main audience driving the box office right now) to not be a very good movie. Many people struggle to watch it whenever it’s actually airing and the audience that has nostalgia for it tends to focus more on the aerial sequences, technical innovations, and how the movie made them feel when they first saw it rather than the actual story. However, what I seem to have underestimated is that nostalgia is a powerful drug.
Notably, Top Gun: Maverick is being touted as a success not just because of its high grossing opening weekend, but also because it’s a big hit with older moviegoers, specifically with those over the age of 35 who showed up at 55% of the audience. That’s notable as older audiences are more reluctant to head to theaters these days, but what strikes me is that it’s not all that far off from half of the audience, a near 50/50 split. It’s striking to me because what this shows is that Top Gun: Maverick seems to be mimicking the appeal of that of another Paramount franchise: Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I mentioned in my coverage for that film that part of the reason it did so well (and continues to perform excellently) is that Sonic 2 boasts a surprising cross-generational appeal. While it might look like a kid’s film (and it admittedly still plays a lot like a kid’s film when you watch it) that is succeeding on the basis of being counterprogramming, a la Sing 2, the fact is the actual movie is filled to the brim with references to the older games in the franchise that older audience members will be able to note and latch on to. These mostly take the form of easter eggs and set-piece designs, but speaking as someone who played Sonic the Hedgehog games when I was younger, they went a long way towards keeping me engaged with the film in spite of its more “kid-ish” nature. Meanwhile, younger fans of the property, or even kids who just see a hyper-fast blue cartoon hedgehog and think “fun!”, are engaged by a fast-paced story of surprising scope, and this has resulted in the film playing very well with all ages in theaters and nearing $400 million worldwide.
Personally, I think the same thing is happening to Top Gun: Maverick. Older audiences are showing up, as expected, out of nostalgia for the property which reminds them of a “movie magic” that hasn’t been present in most recent blockbusters. Surely, a lot of older audience members are bringing their kids to see it with them, but I’d also be willing to bet that the film is also reeling in a younger audience all on its own thanks in large part to Mr. Tom Cruise himself. Truly one of the last real movie stars (alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Sandra Bullock, Denzel Washington, and, I would argue, Kevin Hart), Cruise has managed to keep himself relevant to the general public in a variety of ways. Problems with the actor’s personal life aside, Cruise is a charismatic presence and he knows it. He also knows not to overexpose himself lest he dilute his brand. Taking a page out of Sandra Bullock’s playbook, he not only produces all his films (thereby giving him a strong level of creative control over the productions) but he also is not super-prolific. It might seem weird to think about given the sheer number of famous films he has been in, but he spaces out his film output quite well, usually giving himself at least a year between projects if not more, thus giving audiences time to miss him and the room to get excited when he returns to the big screen, thereby making all his films “Events” with a capital E. If you went to see Top Gun: Maverick this past weekend, you saw an example of this action as the first trailer for Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part 1 (a trailer, by the way, that is primarily made up of dailies with little post-production work done, so it’s maddening just how great it looks), a film that doesn’t release until July 23rd of next year. Paramount is already setting up the audience to anticipate a major “Tom Cruise Event” in the form of a new Mission Impossible film and that’s kind of brilliant.
Mission Impossible is actually an important factor to mention here as that film franchise also holds the key to Top Gun: Maverick‘s appeal to younger viewers. Originally built on nostalgia for the original TV show, combined with the appeal of Tom Cruise bringing leaving it all on the table in the film (I’ve only ever seen the first Mission Impossible film, it’s quite good, but its a wonderful example of how Tom Cruise has always been an intense actor), the franchise has had to evolve over the course of the past 25 years to maintain relevance. It’s done this not by building out its franchise mythology or leaning more into spycraft, but rather by upping the ante in terms of the sheer spectacle and the scope of its set-pieces. Sure, the series has always been bombastic, what with exploding train versus helicopter chases and John Woo-directed action scenes, but where the first film’s big stunt was Cruise descending into high-security room by dangling from a wire in one of the most famous and tense scenes in film history, Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation, and Fallout all have gained major notoriety by featuring Cruise performing death-defying stunts in person and on camera, like that of the famed Burj Kalifa climb or literally hanging off the side of a real airplane as it takes off, or even a massive helicopter chase through the mountains that Cruise reportedly had to film himself whilst driving the helicopter for the scene because no one else would fit in the cockpit. Cruise’s most recent output on film has been predicated largely on the fact that he’s turned himself into his own special effect. Audiences, particularly younger audiences, can feel the tension of him doing all his own stunts and love the narrative it creates for the films. They eat it up, and Top Gun: Maverick is no different.
Written and produced by Cruise’s Mission Impossible director, Christopher McQuarrie, Maverick not only brings a stronger story and greater grasp on characterization to the table (two things the original Top Gun lacked) but also sees Cruise bringing that same, death-defying, “can do” energy to the proceedings. When Maverick is flying a plane in the film, that is actually Cruise flying a plane. There is a sense of high-adrenaline realism brought to this story and these characters, handled beautifully by director Joseph Kosinski, who worked with Cruise on the underrated Oblivion and who brought that same energy to the underseen Only the Brave, and really makes Maverick take flight with younger audiences by giving them meaty, weighty spectacle to latch on to. Combining this cross-generational appeal with a perfect release date via Memorial Day weekend, it’s no wonder that Top Gun: Maverick is the biggest opening of Cruise’s career. He, in true movie star fashion, gave the audience more of what they like most from him, while Paramount stuck to their guns and refused to unload this film on a streaming service. Building pre-release buzz by dropping the review embargo shortly after the film played to CinemaCon audiences weeks ago, there is an argument to be made that Maverick is doing even better than it would’ve in pre-COVID times. In any case, all parties involved should be patting themselves on the back right now as it seems that they have done literally everything right. A $156 million 4-Day opening along with about a $126.7 million international start (It’s looking at a potential $300 million worldwide opening weekend gross when all is said and done) is staggeringly great, and with two full weeks all to itself before Jurassic World: Dominion, plus a rare A+ Cinemascore (a harbinger of great things to come down the line) Maverick has a lot of “runway” to absolutely “soar”.
As for the rest of the weekend, something super intriguing happened. It’s long been a debate amongst box office prognosticators whether or not having an extended holiday weekend actually affects the box office substantially by inflating what would’ve otherwise been standard grosses. One could argue that while it looks like films released on 4-Day holiday weekends make more money on paper, in reality, a movie is usually making just about as much in the 4-Day weekend frame as it would in the 3-Day frame since, generally, the people who were already planning on seeing a film that weekend would’ve seen it no matter what, extra day be damned. There are many factors that go into this, and I would certainly argue that the theming of a Memorial Day Weekend release for Top Gun: Maverick absolutely boosted its grosses, but this weekend presents more evidence that 4-Day weekends don’t really alter grosses all that much in the long run.
Coming in second place, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness grossed about $15.8 million in the 3-Day frame, a drop of -49% which was notably off from my prediction of a -40% drop and a gross of $19.8 million in its fourth week; a drop more in line with the box office performances of Age of Ultron and Spider-Man: Homecoming which saw heavy second weekend drops before rebounding with solid holds throughout the rest of their respective runs. However, if you go off the 4-Day gross, it would seem that my prediction was much closer than expected as the estimated Monday grosses of Multiverse bring its weekend total up to $20.5 million. That’s a mere -34% drop and much closer to the gross I was expecting, suggesting that around $20 million worth of people were going to see Doctor Strange this weekend come hell or high water.
Adding further evidence is the performance of Downton Abbey: A New Age. Skipping around the top for just a moment, my early prediction was that the film would perform almost exactly the same as its predecessor with regard to weekend-to-weekend drops, thus setting the stage for a drop of about -55% in its second weekend and a gross of $7.2 million in fourth place. Once again, the 3-Day gross stands opposed to this prediction with a much greater -63% drop and a gross of $5.75 million. However (again), when factoring in the Monday holiday gross of an estimated $1.6 million, the 4-Day total bumps up to $7.5 million, a drop of -53%, right in line with expectations. It’s not unlike the pattern seen a few months back when Super Bowl Sunday was directly followed by Valentine’s Day, one of the most popular and highest-grossing moviegoing days of the year. While not a one-to-one comparison, Super Bowl Sunday’s effect of depressing Sunday box office grosses, and thus the overall weekend grosses as a whole, was negated by the number of people who came out to see movies that Monday night, thus resulting in another “4-Day” weekend that saw all the films in the top perform exactly as they would’ve under normal circumstances since everyone who was planning on seeing a movie in that time frame ended up coming out no matter what, just as it happened this weekend. The pattern isn’t universal (interestingly enough, the movies that break from the pattern actually ended up overperforming), but it’s prevalent throughout the top ten, further complicating this age-old box office question.
Hopping back to third place, we find our other new wide release, The Bob’s Burgers Movie, a movie that I ragged on in my last post for arriving at the party much too late and am now having to eat my words over. Instead of debuting in the $8-10 million range as I’d expected given that the series it’s based on has been running for 12 years and is not nearly as talked about as it once was, The Bob’s Burgers Movie instead blew right past that and landed with $12.6 million in the 3-Day frame and relatively massive $14.8 million in the 4-Day. I was absolutely shocked about this opening in part because most people didn’t even believe that this film existed until a few months ago. A 20th Century Fox holdover from prior to the Disney merger, I felt sure that this film would land with a thud similar to that of Death on the Nile as it could not be sent straight to Hulu and/or Disney+ due to pre-existing contractual obligations. Of course, in dissecting the release of this film, I found an explanation for how it performed so well that actively made me through my head into the palms of my hands. We’ve seen for months now a pattern of anime films being released with little advance warning that still managed to open huge thanks to the strength of their niche but passionate audiences. Demon Slayer: Mugen Train opened to $22 million in April of 2021 and Jujutsu Kaisen 0 opened to $18 million this past March. Fans of adult animation are a really plugged-in group and can really do some damage when mobilized. Plus, with much of that audience actively engaged with watching these shows on linear television (cable for anime, network for Bob’s Burgers), they’re a pretty easy group to advertise to. If you are one of the, on average, 1.226 million fans who tune in to Bob’s Burgers on FOX every Sunday night, odds are you saw more than a few advertisements for the film, knew it was coming out this weekend, and forked over money to for a ticket to see the film in theaters. Funnily enough, 1.226 million people at $12 a ticket rounds out to roughly $14.7 million, almost exactly the same $14.8 million estimated total for the 4-Day frame. In other words, The Bob’s Burgers Movie played like a Fathom Event and made a really sweet chunk of change doing so. I wouldn’t expect it all that better after this weekend, but this is a massive win for the film that will likely translate into solid profits down the line with rentals and streaming. All in all, a great move on Disney’s part.
As for the rest of the top ten, The Bad Guys and Sonic 2 were surprisingly torn apart this weekend! The Bad Guys held by -29% for a gross of $4.34 million in fifth while Sonic 2 pulled in $2.43 million in seventh via a steeper than usual drop of -40%. I’d be more curious to know what exactly caused the drop (maybe more kids watch Bob’s Burgers than I’d expected) if it wasn’t for the fact that Sonic 2 more than made up its ground with a Monday gross of $600K which brought its weekend total to $3.12 million, a mere -24% off of last weekends gross and right in line with my prediction of $3.06 million for the weekend. The real shocker is actually The Bad Guys, which was pretty much in line with my expectations in the 3-Day frame but pulled ahead notably with a huge $1.52 million Monday gross for a 4-Day haul of $6.1 million. I can only imagine that children and families used the extra day off to catch up on The Bad Guys (which, compared to Sonic 2, is younger-skewing given that it’s based on a children’s book series) if they hadn’t already. In any case, The Bad Guys hit $81 million domestic and are $3 million away from passing $200 million worldwide (and an excellent haul for the film overall), while Sonic 2 hit $372 million worldwide. $400 million worldwide is looking less and less like a possibility though I will continue to reserve judgment until the film opens in Japan this August as it could get a last-minute shot in the arm (though it’s not as though it needs it).
So what film came between our two kid-friendly box office kings? Why our favorite indie juggernaut of course! Yes, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once just cannot be stopped as it held by -20% for a gross of $2.5 million in sixth place. That’s the film’s steepest drop yet, no doubt the result of Top Gun: Maverick stealing away older audiences and IMAX screens; but honestly, when the worst drop of your run so far is a -20% dip, that’s the filmic equivalent of “champagne problems”. Besides, Everything, Everywhere ended up pulling in an extra $679K on Monday for a total 4-Day gross of $3.19 million (a +2% growth from last weekend, technically!), which takes its total domestic haul to $57 million. What can I say that hasn’t been said before? This film continues to defy all odds, not only being less than $3 million away from the $60 million mark-a benchmark that was almost unthinkable last month, not to mention one which it will likely clear by next weekend- but also maintaining a $2,115 per-theater average in its tenth weekend of release. These are the kinds of numbers reserved for comic book movies and The Greatest Showman and all I can say is what I feel as though I say every week: Let’s just keep watching to see how high this baby will go!
Closing out the top ten, The Lost City also continues to defy the odds. Having already passed $100 million domestic despite not being based on an existing property (yes, it rips off Romancing the Stone, who the hell cares?), a majestic feat in and of itself when it comes to this market, and while being simultaneously available to rent or watch on Paramount+, The Lost City unexpectedly grew its audience from weekend to weekend by +17%! Grossing $1.8 million in eighth place, $2.3 million in the 4-Day frame, and totaling $102.2 million domestically, its further proof that Sandra Bullock is still a major movie star, old-fashion filmmaking (star vehicles and whatnot) is not dead, and that Paramount can still kick some booty. Worldwide, the film stands at $181 million and while it is not the blow-out hit that I would’ve liked it to be internationally (I personally wanted to see it hit $200 million worldwide, though it does still have a Japanese theatrical release in June so let’s not count it out just yet), and over $180 million worldwide tallies is more than respectable for this kind of film; not to mention that The Lost City is also doing very well into the rental market and will likely see lots and lots of profit down the line. Ninth place went to Alex Garland and A24’s Men which expectedly dropped like a rock at -63% for a gross of $1.22 million with its 4-Day gross of $1.53 million unable to redeem it. Tenth place went to a surprise Indian import (from a distributor aptly named Independent Indian), F3: Fun and Frustration, which didn’t replicate RRR‘s or even Bob’s Burgers‘ niche success, clocking in with just $1.04 million in the 3-Day and $1.2 million in the 4-Day frame.
As for the specialty market, most of our usual holdovers have petered out (RIP The Duke) though Utopia was back with a documentary, Freakscene – The Story of Dinosaur Jr., telling the story of the eponymous band. With roughly $19K in two theaters, the film did have the distinction of having the second-highest per-theater average gross of the weekend with $9,537 per theater (beneath Top Gun: Maverick‘s insane $26K) but is likely to fade out in the next week (Side Note, Utopia did acquire the US rights to Border director Ali Abbasi’s newest film, Iranian serial killer drama Holy Spider, which just won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for its lead Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, so keep an eye out for that one!). Otherwise, Jonas Carpignano’s A Chiara was released this weekend by NEON, completing his Italian-language trilogy featuring the acclaimed Mediterranea and A Ciambra. Unfortunately, it appears no one seemed to pay them any mind as only $4,377 worth of people showed up across two theaters. C’est la vie.