Flying High With Top Gun: Maverick
From the opening notes of Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone, our adrenaline was pumping across the world as we set in to see what has become a record-breaking film. For both those that waited 36 years for the sequel, and those brand new to Top Gun, there’s no doubt it delivered. Now having generated over $1B in box office revenue — the 50th film in box office history to do so, and the second film since the start of the pandemic (after Spider-Man: No Way Home) to reach that milestone — Top Gun: Maverick has become the highest grossing among all Tom Cruise films, the record-holder for a Memorial Day opening weekend, and had the strongest second weekend of any film with an opening over $100M.
If those milestones weren’t enough, the icing on the Paramount-Cruise cake is that its weekend drops since release have held to under 45%. The true success of the film seems to come from its ability to pull not only Infrequent moviegoers back to the cinema, but also its Marvel-like ability to attract both repeat visits and moviegoers of all ages.
We break down the audience evolution for Top Gun: Maverick below, examining the three key standout traits and how they contribute to the film’s success throughout its theatrical run.
The debut weekend for Top Gun: Maverick saw an incredible box office performance, generating $126.7M domestically — making it the highest grossing opening of all time for any Tom Cruise film. As the first of his films to break $100M in its opening, these were indicators of some of the enormous success to come.
But it wasn’t only the box office numbers that were impressive about Top Gun: Maverick’s opening. It also saw an enormous audience segment of returning Infrequent* moviegoers, with 44% of the opening weekend audience falling into this category.
Launching into its first week at cinema on Memorial Day Monday, moviegoers were still predominantly Infrequent at 47% of the audience, and by its third week in cinemas that had climbed to 54%.
When we compare this to the previous film to reach $1B in box office, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and another current action-adventure blockbuster, Jurassic World Dominion, both of which also drew Infrequent moviegoers back to the cinema, we can see Top Gun: Maverick is reaching close to the impressive pulling power of top tier Marvel movies. Spider-Man’s opening weekend audience consisted of 52% Infrequent moviegoers, and Jurassic World’s brought 38%.
*Frequency is based on moviegoers’ six-month session count. Members with less than two sessions in the past six months are considered infrequent, two to five sessions are considered occasional, six to twenty-five are considered frequent and over twenty-five sessions are considered very frequent.
The average recency for a Top Gun: Maverick moviegoer is 233 days (just under eight months since their last theatrical outing). Looking back eight months brings us to the release window of No Time To Die — a similarly headlined action movie. 30% of the No Time to Die audience came back to see Top Gun: Maverick in theaters.
Overall, 22% of the Top Gun: Maverick audience were returning to cinemas for the first time since reopening, or were new loyalty members. We saw numbers close to this with the release of Downton Abbey (20%), but have not seen returning numbers this high since Spider-Man: No Way Home (31%) and Sing 2 (24%) in December 2021.
“You’ve been called back to Top Gun”
One of the most stand-out elements of Top Gun: Maverick’s audience was the extraordinary number of returning moviegoers who came to see the film again, and again, and again. In its first week of release, more than 6% of Top Gun: Maverick’s audience had already seen the film twice or more.
Repeat attendance continued to climb week over week. By the end of June, in its 5th week of theatrical run, more than 11% of the Top Gun: Maverick audience were repeat visitors, with a fifth of those having seen the film three or more times.
This is much higher than the average for an action film, and far closer to the levels seen by the most popular Marvel movies; Black Panther (11% repeat attendance), Avengers: Endgame (13%), and Spider-Man: No Way Home (13%).
A story for all ages
After a 36-year wait for a sequel, it was inevitable that Top Gun: Maverick would bring an unusually older audience for an action film. And the fans of the 1986 original did not disappoint. During Top Gun: Maverick’s opening weekend, 37% of the audience was aged 55+, and by the second week of release that same demographic made up 44% of the audience, with a 7% increase in those aged 65+ specifically. New-to-return moviegoers were up to 17% by that second week, with 37% of those aged 35-54, and 48% aged 55+.
But the long-awaited sequel status didn’t stop Top Gun: Maverick from bringing the young moviegoers into the cinema, either. Perhaps drawn by the younger cast members around Cruise like Miles Teller, by the death-defying practical stunt work, or coming along with those original fans, younger moviegoers grew as an audience segment over the course of the film’s run. Moviegoers under 25 years old started at 12% of the audience during pre-sales, and rose to 17% by week five. Those aged 35-64 were the majority of the pre-sales audience, making up 65% of pre-sales tickets, compared to 54% of the audience in that same age group during the theatrical window.
Traditionally, we see an abundance of Male moviegoers turning out for action films at the beginning of their theatrical release, which was absolutely the case here. Interestingly, an incremental growth in Female audience attendance developed steadily over the course of the theatrical run. While pre-sales purchasers were overwhelmingly Male at 58%, Female viewership grew to 51% by the fifth week of release.
With its 80’s-inspired soundtrack and homages to the classic first film, Top Gun: Maverick has managed to achieve a timelessness that brought all kinds of moviegoers together for an incredible flight. As the 50th film in history to break the $1B barrier, there’s no other way to describe it than as a soaring success, and it’s in no small part due to its ability to appeal to such a wide audience, and deliver an exciting enough experience to tempt so many of us again and again to jump back into the Danger Zone.
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