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‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is unlike any blockbuster Hollywood has seen in years

<i>Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures Corp</i><br/>Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete
Paramount Pictures
Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures Corp
Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun.

By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business

There are summer blockbusters, and then there’s “Top Gun: Maverick.”

The Paramount film, featuring Tom Cruise‘s return to the skies as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell decades after the hit 1986 original, won the domestic box office over the Labor Day weekend — bringing in $7.9 million for the four-day holiday.

That makes “Maverick” the only film in history to take the top spot on Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend.

It’s just one of the film’s notable financial achievements. It crossed the $700 million mark in ticket sales, passing Marvel’s “Black Panther” to become the fifth highest-grossing film in North American history, and has made $1.4 billion worldwide since opening in May.

In another sign of “Maverick” staying power, the movie boasts a box office multiple of roughly 5.5, which means its current domestic haul is 5.5 times that of its opening weekend total. That’s unheard of in contemporary Hollywood, as most big films have a multiple of around 2.5.

But “Maverick” fans kept coming back to theaters throughout the summer, so much so that the film made at least one million dollars a day for 75 straight days.

That type of financial longevity not only speaks to the film’s quality — it garnered a 96% score on review site Rotten Tomatoes — but serves as an old-school success story at a time when theaters really needed one.

“There are not enough adjectives to describe the importance of the box office performance of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ to the industry, having come at a time when naysayers remained skeptical of the ability of the movie theater to draw audiences,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNN Business. “Truly a watershed event.”

Hollywood simply does not produce summer blockbusters like this anymore.

While several recent movies have done quite well, like 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” and 2021’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” such releases are typically “front-loaded,” meaning they open to huge numbers on debut weekend then sputter out in the following week.

A film that refuses to land

Dergarabedian isn’t exaggerating when he expresses how important “Maverick” has been to theater owners and Hollywood this summer: The film accounted for 13% of the overall domestic box office this year.

And that doesn’t capture its symbolic value. “Maverick” comes at an inflection point for theaters, which are trying to return to normalcy after being devastated by the pandemic. Streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ have also taken a stronger hold on consumers by featuring the type of big-budget productions that used to be exclusive to theaters.

“Maverick,” however, demanded the biggest screens possible, and in doing so, reminded millions of viewers what it’s like to go to the movies after months — if not years — of staying away.

Tom Cruise and Paramount “went all in on the moviegoing experience,” Dergarabedian said. “That bet paid off big and, in the process, solidified Cruise’s position as perhaps the last true movie star while simultaneously proving that there is no substitute for the movie theater experience.”

Still, the summer box office has been desolate the last few weeks, with films either being held up by production issues in Hollywood or heading directly to streaming. It’ll be a few months until two potential blockbuster sequels hit theaters, with “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” coming in November and “Avatar: The Way of Water” due in December.

Can either of those films fly as high? Time will tell. But for now Hollywood and theaters are still enjoying “Maverick,” a movie that refuses to land.

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