Tom Cruise may have pulled off one of the most daring stunts of his career — getting audiences to go to the movies for something that doesn’t involve superheroes.

Top Gun: Maverick” pulled in blockbuster ticket sales in its opening weekend, collecting $124 million from a record 4,732 North American cinemas. Paramount and Skydance’s all-American action adventure is expected to collect $151 million through Monday, defying expectations while also looking to set a new high-water mark for Memorial Day opening weekends. (Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” which launched with $153 million over the long weekend in 2007, currently holds the holiday record). That’s a testament to dazzling reviews, heaping doses of nostalgia and getting Cruise back in the cockpit to perform real aerial stunts as pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.

At the international box office, the sequel to 1986’s “Top Gun” took flight with $124 million, an impressive sum since the movie isn’t playing in key territories, China and Russia. In total, “Top Gun: Maverick” has grossed $248 million worldwide.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is the highest-grossing domestic debut in Cruise’s 40-year career, and his first to surpass $100 million on opening weekend. “War of the Worlds,” which opened to $64 million in 2005, previously stood as Cruise’s biggest opening weekend.

It’s also one of the top pandemic-era openings after “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ($260 million), “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($187 million) and “The Batman” ($134 million).

Audiences over 40 years old, the people who were top of mind when Paramount greenlit another “Top Gun,” turned out in force (55% of ticket buyers), which is impressive because it’s the demographic that has been the most reluctant to return to theaters. Still, the dazzling stunts in “Maverick” managed to entice a significant percentage of millennial moviegoers — 45% of people were 35 or younger — who were not alive when “Top Gun” opened 36 years ago. The film’s positive word of mouth should be helpful in continuing to reach younger crowds.

David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, called the film’s three-day figure “outstanding.”

“The source material remains strong, the execution is excellent, and Tom Cruise makes it work impeccably well,” he says.

Imax and 3D screens added to higher grosses for “Maverick,” with 22% of overall box office returns coming from premium formats. Imax alone is projected to contribute $21 million domestically and $32.5 million globally over the extended weekend.

“If you thought movies were dead, go see ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ and then let me know what you think,” says Imax’s CEO Rich Gelfond. “This film heralds the return of the summer blockbuster and is a catalyst that will accelerate demand for moviegoing like an F-18 breaking the sound barrier. There’s no way you sit in a theatre, with a huge screen and chest-pounding speakers, and come away thinking there’s any other way you want to experience ‘Top Gun: Maverick.'”

“Top Gun: Maverick” continues a stellar box office streak for Paramount, marking the studio’s fifth movie this year to open in first place. Without the assistance of comic books or raging dinosaurs, the studio’s 2022 slate — also consisting of “Sonic the Hedgehog” ($182 million in North America), “The Lost City” ($102 million in North America), “Scream” ($81 million in North America) and “Jackass Forever” ($57 million in North America) — has resonated in theaters in a big way. It’s an impressive rebound since Paramount hardly released any movies during the pandemic, instead sending big titles like Chris Pratt’s “The Tomorrow War,” director Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and Eddie Murphy’s “Coming 2 America” to streaming services.

Despite countless delays (the “Top Gun” sequel was scheduled to open in the summer of 2020 until COVID-19 scrambled those plans), Cruise was adamant that “Maverick” not follow in the footsteps of those straight-to-streaming films. The two-year wait has already started to pay off since the film has been rapturously reviewed. It has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and a rare “A+” CinemaScore.

“I’m gratified we made this decision to hang on,” Paramount’s domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson says about keeping the film on the big screen. “This movie is going to have a huge run. It’s going to draw people to theaters who haven’t been in a long time.”

Joseph Kosinski directed the PG-13 “Top Gun: Maverick,” which picks up decades after the original and sees Maverick train a new group of cocky aviators for a crucial assignment. The cast includes Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly and Val Kilmer, who played Iceman in the first “Top Gun.”

“Top Gun: Maverick” also needs theaters to justify its hefty $170 million production budget, which does not include the tens of millions spent on promoting the movie to audiences worldwide. Those efforts included a splashy premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, which culminated with eight fighter jets flying over the Croisette (the French government paid for those). Skydance Media co-produced and co-financed the film.

Only one film, Disney and 20th Century’s “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” was brave enough to open against “Top Gun: Maverick.” For a movie that’s based on a long-running animated TV show, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” served up an impressive $12.6 million from 3,425 venues, enough for third place on box office charts. The well-reviewed movie should finish the long Memorial Day weekend with $15 million.

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” landed just behind “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which dropped to No. 2 after three weeks atop domestic box office charts. Disney’s newest Marvel Cinematic Universe installment declined 50% to add $16.5 million from 3,805 cinemas in its fourth weekend of release. It’s expected to hit $21.1 million over the four-day frame. The superhero sequel, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, has generated $375 million in North America and a huge $868.7 million globally to date.

At No. 4, “Downton Abbey: A New Era” plunged 63% from its opening, collecting $5.9 million between Friday and Sunday. It’s estimated to earn $7.5 million from 3,830 theaters by Monday. After two weeks in theaters, the sequel to the big-screen continuation of the beloved British television show, has grossed $30 million in North America and $68.9 million worldwide. The follow-up film cost $40 million to produce, meaning the latest “Downton” adventure has ways to go before getting into the black.

Universal’s animated heist comedy “The Bad Guys” rounded out the top five with $4.6 million from 2,944 locations. By Monday, the family friendly film should rake in $6.1 million, which will bring its domestic tally to $82 million.

Without much on schedule until “Jurassic World: Dominion” on June 10, expect “Top Gun Maverick” to stay flying high over movie theater marquees.