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Tom Cruise earned the biggest movie launch of his career with “Top Gun: Maverick,” bringing in a projected $151 million at the box office during Memorial Day weekend.
The Paramount film, which was delayed multiple times due to the coronavirus pandemic, now holds the record for the second-best Memorial Day opening of all time behind Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” which earned $153 million when it was released in 2007.
Global totals were also expected to exceed $275 million despite not playing in either China or Russia, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Top Gun” was off to a staggering $51.8 million start on Friday with more than $19 million in previews from 4,700 theaters in North America.
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Ticket buyers gave the Jerry Bruckheimer film an A+ on CinemaScore, with more than 70% of the audience over the age of 25 and 55% of viewers over the age of 35.
Despite being one of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters, Cruise had never had a bigger opening since 2005’s “War of the Worlds” with Dakota Fanning.
The science fiction film directed by Steven Spielberg grossed $64.9 million during the three-day weekend.
Comscore also noted “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” earned $61.2 million in 2018, but Cruise’s films have all opened to less than $60 million.
Cruise said “Top Gun” would “never” make its theatrical debut on a streaming network despite years of setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cruise and the “Top Gun” team touched down at the Cannes Film Festival last week for the European premiere, a spectacle that included eight fighter jets flying high above the Palais with red and blue smoke streaming behind to match the colors of the French flag.
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Festival President Pierre Lescure also announced Cruise as the recipient of a surprise Palme d’Or award — about 15 honorary Palmes have been given before — on stage with an audience, which gave a standing ovation just before the sequel’s screening began.
The 59-year-old actor returned to Cannes for the first time in three decades and walked alongside his “Top Gun” co-stars, including Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and Glen Powell. The last time he attended the star-studded event was in 1992 with ex-wife Nicole Kidman for their “Far and Away” flick directed by Ron Howard.
“Maverick” was initially supposed to be released in July 2019 through Paramount Pictures but was postponed in August 2018 “to allow the production to work out all the complex flight sequences,” according to Deadline.
When asked if he felt pressure to release the film in any capacity on a streaming network, Cruise assured the audience it would “never” happen.
“That was not going to happen ever,” Cruise said while laughing in excerpts published on The Hollywood Reporter. “That was never going to happen.”
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Cruise recalled picking up his phone and dialing each cast member every time the movie’s release date was pushed back just to reassure everyone to remain calm and focused on what they created.
Cruise remembered telling his co-stars: “Don’t worry, this is going to happen.”
Days before the worldwide shutdown in March 2020, Paramount moved the film up two days early for a release on June 24, 2020, but that was subsequently pushed back to Dec. 23. In July 2020, the film received another new schedule change by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cruise’s schedule and Mulan and Tenet being scheduled for release on the same days.
The studio’s scheduling woes continued when the film was pushed back again in April 2021 for a November release and again in September 2021, when executives finally landed on the May 27, 2022, launch date.
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Cruise first starred as Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a young naval aviator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, in 1986. He worked with Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins and Anthony Edwards.
“Maverick’s” first world premiere was where “Top Gun” all began nearly 40 years ago in San Diego, California.