Tom Cruise saw her. Or how Top Gun beat the pandemic and revived cinema

During the months of Preventive and Mandatory Social Isolation (ASPO) of 2020 and part of 2021, the platforms absolutely reigned. Of course, the cinemas were closed and were gradually opening with limited hours and capacity. The question for the industry was what the future would be. Will the theaters open? Eventually yes.
But the big question was: will the public return? There were several theories, from the well-known extreme “cinema is dead” (something that happened with sound in the 1920s, color in the 1930s, television in the 1950s, VHS in the ’80s, DVD in the ’90s, Blu-Ray in the 2000s, etc.) to the most supportive voices of the big screen as Christopher Nolan, the director of “Tenet”.

Most Hollywood studios strategically maneuvered during the pandemic so they could continue to offer their products. Disney launched the Disney+ platform and offered several Pixar films directly without going through the cinema as a way of not risking the box office by not having 100 percent capacity as with “Luca” and “Red”, but also as a way to promote the platform that it is aggressively positioning itself as the number one subscriber, displacing Netflix’s multi-year reign.

Disney also tried with the PVOD within Disney + as with “Raya”, which adopted a hybrid premiere: it could be seen in the cinema but you could also pay a plus on the same day of the premiere and see it in our homes. “Mulan”, in the United States, and Marvel’s “Black Widow” were also PVOD.

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There was even a PR mini-crisis when Scarlett Johansson, the protagonist of “Black Widow”, publicly threatened Disney with suing her for having released directly on the platform, denying her the percentage of box office royalties, something she had in the contract.

Disney struck back, accusing her of being “insensitive and greedy.” After a couple of days nothing happened. Surely they have settled their differences behind closed doors.

Warner Bros.with then its CEO Jason Kilar, it had a very controversial policy: the day-and-date premiere, that is, the launch of a film in the cinema and on the same day on the HBO Max platform. Kilar, a staunch supporter of Warner’s new streaming service, provoked the ire not only of the exhibitors who felt that the simultaneous premiere further alienated the public from an already limited capacity, but also of the directors and actors who saw as background the mini war between Johansson and Disney.

The solution, at least for this last part, was to give bonuses of tens of millions of dollars to the filmmakers and the actors, as happened with Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot, director and actress of “Wonder Woman 1984”. Warner, which was preparing to become Warner Bros. Discovery, also premiered Nolan’s “Tenet” on that hybrid system, and the director’s voice was not long in coming. Less “pretty” he said of everything to the studio.

BLOCKBUSTER. Who will dare to repeat that “cinema is dead”? – PHOTO: FELIPE BUSTILLO.

The director is a staunch defender of seeing cinema on the big screen and that his latest production did not have that fate was something he could not bear. The solution was to break ties with Warner and move to Universal, where he filmed “Oppenheimer,” due for release in July 2023.

And the rest of the studies? Most of them released their films little by little. Some were sent directly to the platform and others were kept waiting for a better future. Such was the case with “Top Gun: Maverick” which was scheduled to premiere at the end of 2020 and was only released in May 2022.
Tom Cruise, like Nolan, is a staunch supporter of seeing movies at the movies and upheld the strategy of holding on and holding on. Months passed and the release date moved on and on, but Cruise was still unscathed in his decision: “Top Gun” goes to the movies and does not go to the platform.

The strategy was played. “Top Gun” is not part of any superhero franchise; neither is it a series that is being seen regularly like the saga of “Fast and Furious” or “James Bond”. His last and only film is from 1986, that is, thirty-six years ago and it is most likely that young people do not know about it. I mean, no one was asking for a sequel, just like no one is asking for a sequel to “Days of Thunder” or “Cocktail,” Cruise’s two hits from the ’80s. Cruise is a star, yes. But of the “Impossible Mission”, the rest suffered disparate fates.

In the middle Supremethe studio that financed it (along with Skydance by David Ellison, son of Larry, the founder and tycoon of Oracle) presented its Paramount+ platform and one possible way of promoting it was for “Top Gun” to premiere there. No, Cruise didn’t want to.

Finally, with the world premiere of “Maverick” three months ago, time proved Cruise right. With a budget of 170 million dollars, in the United States he came to collect 660 million and, in the world, 674 million. Total: more than 1.3 billion global.

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In Argentina it was first with more than 230,000 viewers the week of the premiere. With a great press campaign by Cruise himself and a premiere in Cannes, “Maverick” was already a success in the first three days with 126 million dollars in the United States alone. At the end of its journey in theaters, it will become one of the most successful films of the year above “The Batman” and “Jurassic World: Dominion”, both already established franchises.

The success of “Maverick” is doubly important because the prevailing model in the industry is that of well-known franchises, not a sequel to a movie from almost 40 years ago without superheroes. But the most significant thing is that it returned the public to theaters without speculation of seeing it in a home format because nothing is simply known. Traditionally, the window from cinema to home, PVOD or platform has been reduced from three months, 75 days to 45 like Warner in 2021 and 2022.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home,” one of the tanks of the year, was in theaters for three months before being available to rent, buy or watch (it’s now on HBO Max). Similarly “Maverick” should be available on August 20 but there is no official announcement and it is speculated that it will only be in the home in early September. Paramount has its platform to upload “Top Gun” whenever.

However, the fact that “Maverick” is sustained in the cinema and is a success favors the big screen and surely this decision by Cruise has opened the possibility that until the next crisis of whatever it is, nobody will say “the cinema is dead”, If not the opposite.

Originally posted on The Economist

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