Jun. 5—The summer movie-going experience is back.
"Top Gun: Maverick" soared to the highest-ever Memorial Day weekend opening by raking in an impressive $156 million at the domestic box office in its first four days of release. The updated estimates from measurement firm Comscore released Monday pushes Paramount's highly anticipated "Top Gun" sequel past the previous record-setting Memorial Day total set by Disney's 2007 "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." The third film in the "Pirates" franchise earned $153 million over the extended holiday weekend.
"I think movies are coming back," said Mike McGranaghan, known as Movie Mike, a film critic with Sunbury Broadcasting. "We saw the phenomenal success of Spider-Man: No Way Home (in 2021). I think people are ready to come back when there's something big. It takes something big to get people back. People want to get out and have that experience, and they want to see something on the big screen with a booming sound system. We're getting these big movies again and people are feeling safe."
Scotta Magnelli, the executive director of the Campus Theater in Lewisburg, said "It sure feels like the movie industry is back. It's been in baby steps. At the campus, it depends on the title here. Some of the more popular titles, when we show them here, the admission numbers are really starting to come up. As someone who runs a theater, it's been a long hiatus. When we first were able to reopen, Hollywood was still catching up. It does seem like Hollywood is rebounding now."
The original Top Gun was released in 1986. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, "Top Gun: Maverick" sees Tom Cruise return as his iconic Navy pilot Pete "Maverick" Mitchell 36 years after he first charmed audiences in the original "Top Gun." This time around, Cruise's Maverick is sent back to the Top Gun program as an instructor charged with training the next generation of elite fighter pilots.
"Top Gun: Maverick" has smashed early box-office expectations, which predicted the sequel would earn $130 million over the four-day weekend. The film also marks Cruise's biggest domestic launch ever. Overall, "Maverick's" estimated global box office haul is $252.7 million for its opening weekend.
Friends Brian Anderson, of Riverside, and Barry Cooper, of Winfield, brought their wives to the 3 p.m. showing at AMC Selinsgrove last week.
"I've seen the original 30 times," said Anderson. "When Star Wars came out, I watched that 11 times. I love the flight scenes. I have my pilot's license and I love flying."
Anderson said he was disappointed when the movie was delayed since 2020.
"They delayed it," he said. "I've been waiting and waiting for two years. It was supposed to come out two years ago."
Cooper said he hasn't seen the original as many times as his friend. He said his wife is also a pilot.
"She's my top gun," he said.
McGranaghan said there was a level of excitement about the Top Gun sequel from movie-goers that he hadn't heard in a long time. Marvel movies have built-in excitement, but "people seemed to have a love for the original (Top Gun) and genuinely were excited to see this one," he said.
McGranaghan predicts that Maverick will dominate the summer box office through the end of the season. He said that watching a movie at the theater is an immersive experience that cannot be replicated at home.
"Coming out of the pandemic, people are ready for escapism again," he said. "They're ready to go the movies again and get immersed. That massive screen and the booming sound system really do that."
"Top Gun: Maverick" is the perfect movie to watch in theaters, he said.
"The flying scenes are so spectacular, you feel like you're in the cockpit," said McGranaghan. "The sound is phenomenal. The jets are roaring. It's not only a visual experience, it's an auditory experience."
Magnelli said the plan is to screen the Top Gun sequel, but the Campus doesn't have access to big titles until at least six weeks after they open wide in the multiplexes. A fair amount of patrons, some of who have inquired about Top Gun, will wait until Campus gets the movie, she said.
People love the movie theater experience, she said.
"It's about coming together, seeing friends and neighbors, and chatting about the movie afterward," she said. "We have to sometimes push people out of the lobby because they're so excited to talk about it after the movie is done."
Magnelli agreed with McGranaghan, saying a movie like Maverick is not going to be the same at home.
"It's just not the same," said Magnelli. "For that reason, I don't think theaters are going away any time soon. People will always love that experience."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.