After Memorial Day weekend, “Top Gun: Maverick” is the new top dog at the box office.
Amassing a $126 million three-day opening and $160 million for the long weekend, Tom Cruise’s return as pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell ranks under superhero tentpoles “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “The Batman” as one of the best openings yet of the pandemic era.
It’s a great showing for Paramount, with three other films from the studio in 2022’s top 10. The studio will again benefit from its continued partnership with Cruise in 2023, when the first part of “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning” drops.
Here are three films releasing throughout the summer that should join “Top Gun: Maverick” as 2022’s best bows.
“Jurassic World Dominion” (June 10)
Next up to prove his worth at the box office is Chris Pratt, who returns for a third “Jurassic World.”
This franchise is one of the most reliable performers of the past few decades. Universal’s 2015 reboot of the dino-mayhem franchise opened to more than $200 million and is a global box office all-timer. 2018 follow-up “Fallen Kingdom” didn’t gross as much, but it still pulled in an opening around $150 million. Achieving an amount that large in the pandemic era would still be a feat.
The new “Jurassic World” will measure what appetite there still is for Pratt but also features the biggest reunion of stars yet for the franchise. Original leads Sam Neill and Laura Dern are reprising their roles alongside Jeff Goldblum and BD Wong, who both starred in prior “Jurassic World” films. Pratt is still the film’s biggest face, but the nostalgia exploitation is bound to work in Universal’s favor, given how successfully “Top Gun: Maverick” just delivered on nostalgia for its 1986 predecessor.
“Minions: The Rise of Gru” (July 1)
Just like the “Top Gun” sequel, the second “Minions” film from Universal’s Illumination studio was originally set to release in the summer of 2020, making it one of the longest pandemic delays holding out for a better box office climate.
It’s understandable why Universal waited. The first “Minions” in 2015, itself a spinoff of the “Despicable Me” films, was an enormous box office hit that opened to more than $100 million and remains the best overall performer for the franchise.
The film could easily deliver a better weekend than “Top Gun,” as Universal has already seen families return in droves for animated films this year. DreamWorks Animation’s “The Bad Guys” is currently Universal’s best 2022 film at the box office, with more than $70 million, while Illumination’s 2021 holiday release “Sing 2” brought in above $80 million in 2022 alone as part of its $160 million domestic haul, per Comscore.
The new “Minions” film won’t be an animation outlier ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, as Pixar’s “Lightyear” releases two weeks prior on June 17. That said, Buzz Lightyear’s origin story is aimed slightly more toward the so-called “Disney Adult” crowd than prior “Toy Story” films, none of which have ever grossed more worldwide than “Minions.”
“Thor: Love and Thunder” (July 8)
Unsurprisingly, the film with the best summer prospects is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next entry.
The fourth “Thor” film starring Chris Hemsworth represents the MCU’s biggest direct-sequel return since “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019, as Hemsworth was one of the core four leading the superhero ensemble.
The second “Doctor Strange” already opened to nearly $190 million, the best of 2022 yet and second overall in the pandemic era behind “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Star Benedict Cumberbatch also appeared in that same “Spider-Man” film, helping to boost awareness for the character whose introductory 2016 film only opened to $85 million.
“Love and Thunder” will also continue the cross-universe character continuity the MCU is known for via appearances from Pratt alongside his co-stars from “Guardians of the Galaxy,” making it another priority watch for MCU fans. Disney is also about to begin filming the second season of Disney+ series “Loki,” which is based around the Thor character’s brother, so fans are undoubtedly expecting some kind of tease in the film’s credits, as is custom for MCU films.
Beyond MCU fare and other big tentpoles, there are still smaller films of note that will test audience’s hunger for standalone films.
“Elvis,” a biopic from Warner Bros. releasing June 24, is the first film directed by Baz Luhrmann since 2013’s Leonardo DiCaprio-led “The Great Gatsby.” “Elvis” was a hit at Cannes, but star Austin Butler is new to leadman status, putting pressure on co-star Tom Hanks to fill seats.
Universal’s next film from horror maestro Jordan Peele, “Nope,” is due July 22. Peele films have grossed well for R-rated outings, but “Nope” is the first release from the comedian-turned-filmmaker to play in the pandemic box office. That said, A24’s R-rated “Everything Everywhere All at Once” continues to fill seats, and Universal’s 2021 horror film “Candyman,” which was co-written and produced by Peele, was likewise able to lure theatergoers amid COVID’s delta wave in August.
With pandemic restrictions gone and major tentpoles back, it’s an optimistic time for the box office, but recent and devastating mass shootings in New York and Texas could still have the potential to cast a cloud over cinema attendance, particularly for families who have access to streaming options at home.
Regardless, “Top Gun” has kicked off the summer box office in sufficient style.