Euphoric reviews and strong word of mouth helped boost ticket sales, which already far exceeded analyst expectations. “Top Gun: Maverick” received a rare A-plus rating from ticket buyers in CinemaScore exit polls. Paramount also supported the release with a clever marketing campaign featuring a monumental premiere on an aircraft carrier; a video stunt with James Corden that went viral; promotion by hundreds of TikTok and Instagram influencers; a website that allows fans to generate custom callsigns using augmented reality photos; and original songs by Lady Gaga. As always, Cruise trotted around the world on a tightly controlled publicity tour.
In the United States, concerns about the coronavirus appear to have ebbed. According to polls by National Research Group, a motion picture industry consultancy, about 85 percent of prepandemic ticket buyers (who attend at least four movies a year) feel safe at the cinema. In January, about 65 percent felt safe. NRG data shows that consumers generally view movie theaters as safer than gyms, bars and restaurants.
“This is the real turning point,” said Mooky Greidinger, the CEO of Cineworld, owner of Regal Cinemas, the No. 2 multiplex chain in the United States. “We are very, very optimistic for the rest of the year.” He noted that a large percentage of “Top Gun: Maverick” ticket buyers opted for premium-priced screenings at major theaters such as IMAX. “Give us a movie like ‘Top Gun!’ every weekend,” he said.
For the first time since early 2020, Greidinger and other theater owners will make their wish come true. The box office struggles to bounce back, in part because of studios’ sporadic output. “We’d have a really big one and then nothing to follow up on that,” Fithian said. “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” for example, was a juggernaut in late December and January, taking in $1.9 billion worldwide. But it also had theaters largely to itself, with February almost devoid of big budget offers.
In the coming weeks, Hollywood will be serving up a slew of killer sequels and prequels, including “Jurassic World: Dominion,” “Lightyear,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” and “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Other high-profile summer offerings include “Where the Crawdads Sing,” “Elvis,” and Jordan Peele’s “Nope.” Theater owners also have high hopes for “The Black Phone,” a Blumhouse thriller, and “Bullet Train,” starring Brad Pitt.
“There’s finally a range of options for all types of moviegoers,” Fithian said. “Movie attendance leads to cinema attendance,” he added, with trailers showing in theaters one weekend and fueling audience numbers the next.