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‘Top Gun: Maverick’ has the ‘perfect recipe’ for a summer box office hit, expert says

Fandango Managing Editor Erik Davis joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss box office earnings for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ and ‘Elvis,’ upcoming movie releases, and expectations for the summer lineup.

Video transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: The summer box office battle is heating up with "Elvis" securing the number one spot from "Top Gun, Maverick" at the weekend box office. But will this momentum lasts through the summer? Joining us now to discuss this is Erik Davis, Fandango managing editor, with us in studio. Erik, we're just getting caught up because we saw "Top Gun" five weeks after the release.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Really late to the game.

AKIKO FUJITA: But a billion dollars for this movie. How much of this is specific to "Top Gun"? How much of this points to the fact that people are slowly starting to ease back into the theaters, Erik?

ERIK DAVIS: Yeah, I think it's this perfect recipe, right? It came out on Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of summer. It's super entertaining. It's not one of these comic book movies where you have to see, like, 11 other films and TV shows in order to understand the plot. It's simple. It's the follow-up to a classic movie. And it's Tom Cruise. And Cruise has refashioned himself in the last few years to be this not just an action star, but the kind of action star that puts his life on the line to make these movies.

And he did it again with this one. They're flying in real jets. They're going G speeds, big time. And the actors are in there, too. And you feel the intensity of it. And audiences know when it's the real deal and when it's, like, a green screen and computer effects.

BRIAN CHEUNG: I mean, since we're late to the game, right, we have to acknowledge that the summer movie season started when this movie came out about four or five weeks ago, Memorial Day weekend. But look, we're in the middle of the summer. We're coming up on that very important July 4th weekend. What are some of the other big releases? We know "Elvis" has kind of taken the top spot right now. Look, I know it's a little goofy, but "Minions" is coming out, right, this weekend.

ERIK DAVIS: That is out, yeah.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Well, that's a massive-- I mean, that's a massive franchise, right? So what are the other big hitters that you think are really going to catch a lot of attention?

ERIK DAVIS: Yeah, well, and you look at "Top Gun" and the momentum. We had four films gross over $20 million last weekend for the first time since Thanksgiving weekend 2018. So, really a lot of options right now. And you mentioned "Minions." "Minions" is out this week. That's a big one. Huge franchise. Illumination films always open really well. The "Despicable Me" movies, "The Secret Life of Pets," that is all Illumination. The "Sing" movie, "Sing 2," also did really well. And so you have that.

And then "Thor, Love and Thunder" is right on the flip side of the holiday weekend. That's the next Marvel movie. It's big. It's absurdist humor. It's colorful, different than that "Doctor Strange" movie, which was more of a horror movie. I would say even this "Thor" movie is maybe more family-friendly than that "Doctor Strange" film. It's big. It's funny. A lot of silly humor in it, so I love that. And then we have some original stuff. Jordan Peele is back--

BRIAN CHEUNG: "Nope," yep.

ERIK DAVIS: --yeah, with "Nope," which is an original summer blockbuster, sort of like a UFO-- he calls it a horror epic that is a classic UFO story, but it's also about our need for attention. With Jordan Peele movies, there's always this spectacle and the entertainment factor. But then you leave them and you want to have a conversation.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, that sounds like the perfect Jordan Peele--

BRIAN CHEUNG: That sounds right.

AKIKO FUJITA: --description, right?

ERIK DAVIS: It's amazing.

AKIKO FUJITA: There is still this underlying discussion about whether, in fact, people are going back to the theaters in the way they did pre-pandemic with streaming and releases happening online as well. Does the success that we've seen over the last several weeks, does that put that to rest? Or is it really about the summer blockbusters? That's what get people out there.

ERIK DAVIS: Well, I think the summer blockbusters are going to get people out there and remind them that they like going to the movies. You know, I think that's one of the big things that "Top Gun, Maverick" did, is everybody went to see it, and they were like, oh, wow, like, we're cheering. We're having a good time. I'm crying as I leave the theater. Like, I'm not getting that experience at home. And that reminds people of, like, what that experience is like in their lives and why we value it in our lives.

And so I think that really helped people go back. I think a lot of these big movies are going to bring some of those folks back to theaters. And yeah, and then I think it's going to lead into the fall. So yes, I do think we're back. Last weekend, we saw numbers we haven't seen since 2018. So that's showing us and that's proof that we're back. And so I think but it's going to depend week to week and movie to movie. But I definitely think all audiences are back at the theater now and having a good time.

BRIAN CHEUNG: I want to ask about Disney. "Lightyear" came out, maybe didn't do as well as they had expected. And even when we're talking about the movies that are hotly anticipated this year, "Thor," which is a Marvel Disney property, kind of came up as almost an afterthought. So is Disney losing a little bit of momentum in this summer season compared to those hot summer seasons where everyone was just waiting for the next Avengers?

ERIK DAVIS: Yeah, I mean, I look at "Lightyear," and a lot of people are talking about it underperforming. But it's still the biggest grossing animated film that we've seen since the pandemic started. So it still did really, really well. And, you know, Disney did bring some of those Pixar movies to Disney+ during the pandemic. I don't think a lot of that sort of impacted. But there may be people that are waiting 45 days, thinking it's going to be on Disney+.

My family just saw "Lightyear" yesterday and had a blast watching it. So but we're going to get "Minions," and then we're going to get "DC Super Pets." There's a "Paws of Fury." So there's another three animated films coming out this summer. And once we see those roll out, it'll give us kind of a better idea of just the animated genre at theaters and how it's performing.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Yeah, I actually saw the trailer for "Paws of Fury." It looks pretty good, like cats versus dogs with a kung-fu twist.

ERIK DAVIS: I should say tickets are on sale starting today.