Tom Cruise’s “Top: Gun Maverick” is the box winner of the year so far, and it’s not even close. The long-awaited sequel has earned $617 million and counting at the domestic box office and $1.2 billion so far worldwide. Outside of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and its $1.9 billion gross, “Top: Gun Maverick” has been hailed by many in the press as reigniting the box office after the pandemic woes. But not so fast, say Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group co-presidents Sanford Panitch and Josh Greenstein. The duo recently told Vulture that Sony deserves some credit for “Top Gun: Maverick’s” box office dominance.
As Panitch and Greenstein see it, Sony Pictures was one of the first studios to bring audiences back to the theater in mass during the pandemic. The studio opened “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” in October 2021 to a $90 million debut ($10 million more than the original “Venom” opened to in non-pandemic times) and a $506 million total worldwide (far below the original “Venom,” but a strong pandemic success nonetheless). Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” followed in November with $204.4 million worldwide, and then “Spider-Man: No Way Home” earned $1.9 billion globally to become the third-highest-grossing film in history, unadjusted for inflation.
“When we first started releasing movies last October, there were really no other big movies,” Greenstein said. “Everyone had pushed their big movies to this year, to this summer. We took a big gamble putting ‘Venom’ in theaters. Then we doubled down with ‘Ghostbusters.’ Then our biggest bet was when every other tentpole had fled, we tripled down with ‘Spider-Man’ — our biggest, most important piece of IP.”
Sony had a fourth win earlier this year with the February launch of “Uncharted,” the video game adaptation starring Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland. The adventure tentpole earned $401 million worldwide. Panitch and Greenstein said all of Sony’s box office wins, starting with “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” paved the way for “Top Gun: Maverick” to blast off.
“There’s so much press about ‘Top Gun’ right now. It’s like, ‘The movie business is back!'” Panitch said. “In a weird way, I would say ‘Top Gun’ is benefitting from us taking our shot. ‘Venom’ is the start of that story that allows ‘Top Gun’ to do the kind of business it did. These things don’t happen overnight. It’s a seeding.”
Next up for Sony is “Bullet Train,” from “Deadpool 2” and “Atomic Blonde” filmmaker David Leitch. The pic, starring Brad Pritt, is the only major studio action tentpole on the calendar for August. “Bullet Train” takes off Aug. 5.