Fire up the jets.

After two years of being grounded by the coronavirus pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick is finally flying into theaters over Memorial Day weekend following a headline-grabbing, global marketing blitz that saw a tireless Tom Cruise transform into the showman of the moment as he made stops at a world premiere in San Diego, the Cannes Film Festival, a Royal-sponsored screening in London and another premiere in Japan.

The release of the long-awaited sequel to the iconic 1986 movie is poised to be a defining moment for the box office recovery, which so far has been largely fueled by superhero fare.

Top Gun 2 is easily headed for the biggest opening of Tom Cruise’s career at the domestic box office, with a four-day gross of at least $92 million, according to official tracking. And that’s a conservative estimate. Many pundits believe the critically acclaimed sequel could soar well north of $100 million domestically, but tracking — one of Hollywood’s favorite pastimes — has become fraught in the pandemic era. Exhibitors are especially bullish on the pic, and are even thinking $125 million-plus.

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Part of the problem in this instance: there’s no way of knowing whether older consumers will set aside their caution and rush out to see the $170 million-plus movie on the first weekend. And while Top Gun 2 certainly hopes to play to younger audiences, it is nevertheless a follow-up to a 36-year-old property.

Cruise may be one of the world’s biggest movie stars, but his films — including the Mission: Impossible movies — have never sported the sort of mega-openings that superhero tentpoles or other franchise installments can enjoy (think Jurassic World or Fast & Furious). Instead, his films can play and play.

To date, 2005’s War of the Worlds ranks as Cruise’s top domestic opening with a three-day gross of $64.9 million, followed by 2018’s Mission: Impossible — Fallout at $61.2 million, according to Comscore and not adjusted for inflation. The rest of his films have opened to less than $60 million.

In North America, Top Gun 2 will host Thursday previews before unspooling everywhere on Friday in a whopping 4,732 locations. There’s also a special fan event on May 24 in select Dolby Cinema, Imax and other premium-format theaters.

Overseas, Maverick opens in 62 markets, although it has yet to secure a China release date and won’t open in South Korea for two more weeks. Nor is Paramount presently making any of its titles available in Russia because of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. If all goes well, the big-budget summer pic should near or cross $200 million globally in its debut.

Top Gun: Maverick, returning Cruise as the ultra-gifted and confident Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, was originally set to hit the big screen in summer 2020, but COVID waylaid those plans. Paramount and Skydance subsequently moved the film several more times so that it could get a proper global theatrical release.

The film, which presently sports a stellar 97 percent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, co-stars Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell and Ed Harris, while Val Kilmer also makes a brief appearance as “Iceman,” Maverick’s one-time nemesis-turned-pal. The film also features Lady Gaga’s ballad “Hold My Hand,” while the producing team includes Jerry Bruckheimer, who guided the 1986 film.

Looking to provide counter-programming, Disney will release 20th Century’s The Bob’s Burgers Movie in more than 3,400 theaters in North America. The PG-13 pic, based on the popular TV show that’s a favorite of teen girls, is tracking to gross $10 million to $14 million and presently boasts a 93 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.

Hollywood Reporter Original Article