Top Gun: Maverick & Minions: The Rise Of Gru Helped Save The Box Office With Patience (And Confidence)

2020 was a no-good, very-rotten year all around, but the movie industry was hit especially hard. It turns out that a business that relies on people being confined together in tight spaces for hours at a time indoors can't thrive when a pandemic is raging. However, two years removed, things are truly starting to look up as the box office recovery in 2022 is going extremely well. Case in point: "Minions: The Rise of Gru" just had the best Fourth of July weekend ever (yes, ever), and "Top Gun: Maverick" was hot on its tail continuing to hold incredibly well in its sixth weekend.

Aside from the fact that Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures, respectively, have reason to pop champagne over the grosses, both of these films have instilled confidence in the theatrical side of the movie business in a big way. A sequel to an '80s classic not involving superheroes and an animated family film now stand to be among the top-grossing movies of the year, if not the single two highest-grossing movies of the year overall. What's perhaps most amazing is that both of these movies were originally supposed to arrive in 2020 and yet, the studios decided it was best to play the long game. In doing so, they were greatly rewarded.

Patience is a virtue

Originally, "Minions: The Rise of Gru" was set to open a full two years ago on July 3, 2020, while Paramount had "Top Gun: Maverick" on deck for December 23, 2020. As movie theaters remained closed around the world for months on end that year, both films were amongst many, many Hollywood box office hopefuls that were pushed far later into the year or, in most cases, all the way to 2021/2022. But with the release of the "Minions" sequel, all of the big films that had been delayed as a result of the pandemic have finally been released, meaning we can truly see the value in what waiting did for these films.

"The Rise of Gru" opened to a staggering $125.2 million domestically and set a new record for the Fourth of July weekend. With just shy of $219 million to its name worldwide, it is already in the top 10 highest-grossing movies of the year. Not to get too ahead of ourselves here, but this movie is well on its way to $1 billion globally and it's only been a handful of days. This also means the "Despicable Me" franchise will cross $4 billion worldwide any day now, which is a truly remarkable accomplishment.

Speaking of the $1 billion club, "Top Gun: Maverick" has been the big movie that could and, as of this writing, stands at $1.115 billion worldwide with few signs of slowing down. It is currently the highest-grossing movie of the year both domestically and worldwide, with few competitors left to try and take that crown away, save for "Avatar: The Way of Water." However, James Cameron's sequel will likely make the bulk of its money in 2023, given its December release. So the calendar year will go to the sequel nearly 30 years in the making. Let us never underestimate Tom Cruise again.

Quality is key

One thing that is very much worth taking into account here is the general consensus that both of these were, in their own ways, quality films. "Top Gun: Maverick" became the first film of 2022 to earn an A+ CinemaScore and the word of mouth has helped the film to hold unbelievably well week after week at the box office. This is the kind of box office hold that we thought was dead even before the pandemic began, quite frankly. And while Rotten Tomatoes isn't the be-all-end-all measuring stick, but director Joseph Kosinski's sequel currently holds a 96% critical approval rating and a stunning 99% audience score.

And while they're not everyone's cup of tea, it's important to remember that these "Minions" movies are just astoundingly popular and they trace their roots back to "Despicable Me" in 2010. This to say, a generation of young moviegoers grew up with this franchise, which helps to explain the whole #Gentleminions craze. With that in mind, is it any surprise that the film has an A CinemaScore to go along with a 91% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes? For what it's worth, critics aren't being hard on the movie either, with a 72% critic score attached to the film. Not bad at all.

Both Paramount and Universal had reason to be confident in these respective films. Perhaps, not surprisingly, some of the other films that were released in late 2020 or earlier in 2021 were not as critically sound. "Chaos Walking," "Snake Eyes," and "Monster Hunter" serve as just a few examples.

The movies that fell on the sword

It would be exhausting to go over a list of every single movie that was delayed in 2020 only to be released much later, but there are plenty. "No Time to Die," "A Quiet Place Part II," "F9," "Black Widow," "Spiral," "Candyman," "In the Heights," "Free Guy," "Dune," "Jungle Cruise," "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," "The King's Man," and of course, "Morbius." The list goes on. Some of these films succeeded and are even getting sequels. Others fell well short of expectations and ultimately had to rely on streaming to try and save face. It was a mixed bag to be certain.

Yet, a couple of movies really decided to test the waters early, perhaps to their detriment. Christopher Nolan became determined to help save cinema by releasing "Tenet" in theaters in August of 2020, becoming the first major blockbuster to be released since theaters shut their doors. It ultimately topped out at just $365 million worldwide against a huge $200 million budget. It's easy to imagine, in light of what "Top Gun" and "Minions" have done, that it may have fared much better this year.

Similarly, and also from Warner Bros., "Wonder Woman 1984" arrived in December of 2020, both in theaters and on HBO Max, topping out at a very poor $169.6 million worldwide. Given that the original "Wonder Woman" was a huge $822 million hit, it's hard to imagine the film would have performed so poorly somewhere on the calendar either in later 2021 or this year at any point.

For better or for worse, some of these big movies fell on the sword. They helped theaters at a dire time. Without them, many theaters may not have survived at all. They limped so that the likes of "Top Gun" and "Minions" could sprint. This recovery might not be possible without some of those sacrifices.