LOS ANGELES — “Top Gun: Maverick” finds Tom Cruise called back into service by a rattled Navy. A new threat has emerged, one that a younger generation of pilots can’t crack on its own.
It was a similar scenario in real life over the weekend, as Hollywood — still struggling to jolt moviegoing out of its pandemic slumber — looked to “Top Gun: Maverick,” a sequel to a 36-year-old film, and Cruise, perhaps the last old-fashioned movie star, for a solution. The result was a defining moment for the film industry’s box office recovery, analysts said, with estimated ticket sales of $151 million in North America from Thursday night through Monday. That means more than 11 million people will have pried themselves away from in-home streaming services, according to EntTelligence, a research firm.
“People are ecstatic,” said John Fithian, chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners. “We’ve spent two years answering God-awful existential questions about the future of moviegoing.” Fithian noted that older audiences, largely absent from theaters over the last two years because of coronavirus concerns, returned en masse over the weekend, “ending the debate about a full recovery.”
About 55 percent of ticket buyers were over the age of 35, according to Paramount Pictures, which released “Top Gun: Maverick.” Paramount and Skydance Media produced and financed the movie, which cost roughly $170 million to make. A megawatt global marketing campaign cost another $125 million or more.