May 31, 2022 - Economy & Business

Movie theaters strike back: "Top Gun: Maverick" delivers

Illustration of a stock trend line on a movie theater screen
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Don't roll the credits quite yet — movie theaters haven't reached the end. The blockbuster opening for "Top Gun: Maverick" during Memorial Day Weekend signals that there's still hope for movie theaters like AMC and Cinemark.

Why it matters: The filmgoing experience was looking so dire for a while during the pandemic that AMC warned it might go out of business and, later on, went so far as investing in a gold mine to diversify its operations.

  • Now it looks like the industry's core business — selling movie tickets — doesn't need to strike gold to survive.

Driving the news: "Top Gun: Maverick" fetched $156 million at the domestic box office as of Monday morning, per Comscore, and $252.7 million worldwide, per Paramount, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

  • "It’s a very momentum-building weekend for theaters after two summers that almost didn’t exist," Comscore media analyst Paul Dergarabedian tells Axios.

Worth noting: We've had other blockbusters during the pandemic, but virtually all of them were superhero films, featuring the likes of Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Widow and Batman.

  • Tom Cruise was proven right that moviegoers will still come out for big-spectacle films without superhero connections.
  • "You DON'T have to be a Marvel/Disney production to pack seats," Axios cinephile Javier E. David offers.

Yes, but: The box office is still down 40% year-to-date compared with 2019.

Of note: Older audiences packed the seats to see Cruise and company zipping through the air at breakneck speeds.

  • About 55% of moviegoers were 35 years or older, according to Variety.
  • "This movie was able to bring back more mature moviegoers," many of whom had shunned theaters during the pandemic until now, Dergarabedian says.

Be smart: Streaming services aren't going anywhere, but they can't offer the same type of escapist experience that theaters can offer — especially after two years of feeling cooped up.

  • "That pure escapism is what movie theaters have always been about. It’s an unplugged experience," Dergarabedian says.

What we're watching: Whether movie theaters can keep the momentum going with upcoming summer flicks like "Jurassic World: Dominion" and Pixar's "Lightyear."

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