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'Elvis' is king, alone, of box office after final tallies

Older audiences have been among the most hesitant to return to theaters in the pandemic, but that's changing.

NEW YORK — “Elvis” has won its box-office dance-off with “Top Gun: Maverick.” After the two films reported the same ticket sales Sunday, Monday's final numbers has “Elvis,” alone, as king of the weekend.

“Elvis” ultimately grossed $31.1 million from Friday to Sunday, according to Warner Bros.' final figures Monday. That's a touch above the $30.5 million the studio forecast on Sunday. When film studios report box office on Sunday, they're able to fairly accurately predict Sunday's ticket sales.

Paramount Pictures, on the other hand, slightly overestimated how “Top Gun: Maverick” fared in its fifth weekend. After the studio reported the same $30.5 million for the “Top Gun” sequel on Sunday, the studio's final number came in at $29.6 million.

Regardless, both films performed well. Baz Luhrmann's Elvis Presley biopic opened above expectations, and brought out large numbers of older moviegoers — a segment of the audience that's been slow to return to theaters during the pandemic.

“Top Gun: Maverick" continued to hold remarkably well, dipping a modest 34% percent in its fifth weekend. Overall, the Joseph Kosinski-directed film starring Tom Cruise has earned about $1 billion worldwide, including more than $520 million domestically.

“Elvis,” starring newcomer Austin Butler as Presley, came into the weekend with expectations closer to $25 million. Among recent music biopics, a $30.5 million debut puts the King ahead of the pace of Elton John ("Rocketman" launched with $25.7 million in 2019) though not in the same class as Freddie Mercury ("Bohemian Rhapsody" opened with $51.1 million in 2018).

“I'm less concerned with who's number one and who's number two, and I'm more concerned that we hit this big number given that this audience has been the slowest to return to movie theaters," said Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros.

About 60% of the audience for “Elvis” was over the age of 35. Older audiences have been among the most hesitant to return to theaters in the pandemic but that's changing — in part, Goldstein noted, because of “Top Gun," which brought back fans of the 1986 original.

“Elvis,” which cost about $85 million to make, was propelled by strong reviews (78% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), good word of mouth (an A- CinemaScore) and a glitzy Cannes Film Festival premiere. It added $20 million overseas over the weekend.

“Elvis” ranks as Luhrmann's second best opening after 2013's “The Great Gatsby” ($50.1 million). Luhrmann was on the cusp of beginning production in Australia when, in an indelible early moment in the pandemic, star Tom Hanks tested positive for COVID-19.

“‘Elvis’ was a risky proposition: the music is dated, the character is not directly familiar, and the lead actor is unproven on the big screen,” David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research wrote in a newsletter. “But critics and audiences are responding. This is the Baz Luhrmann show, a music, dance and sex appeal spectacular — it’s a hit.”

Meanwhile, “Top Gun: Maverick” continues to soar. The Paramount Pictures film became the first 2022 release to reach $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales, and the first starring Tom Cruise to do so.

In its fifth weekend of release, “Maverick” dipped just 32% domestically to bring its total so far to $521.7 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters. It continues to move up the record books, sitting 15th all-time domestically, not accounting for inflation. Internationally, the “Top Gun” sequel added another $44.5 million.

The “Elvis”/"Top Gun" showdown — along with the new Blumhouse horror release “The Black Phone” and big holdovers in “Jurassic World: Dominion” and Pixar's “Lightyear" — made for one of the most competitive, and busy, weekends in movie theaters in the pandemic era.

Most studios came away celebrating, though Disney's “Lightyear” dropped a steep 65% in its second weekend. After opening softly last week, the “Toy Story” spinoff grossed $17.7 million domestically, falling to fifth place. “Lightyear,” which has made $152 million worldwide to date, will soon face more competition for families with the Friday release of “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

Counterprogramming came from Universal Pictures' “The Black Phone," the Scott Derrickson-directed supernatural thriller starring Ethan Hawke as an escaped killer. The Blumhouse production rode strong reviews (84% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) to a better-than-expected launch of $23.4 million.

After two weeks in first place, Universal's “Jurassic World: Dominion” took in $26.4 million, sliding to third. It's now passed $300 million domestically, and hauled in $746.7 million globally.

A much smaller-scaled film, “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” debuted with good sales in limited release. The warmly received stop-motion animation film, in which Jenny Slate voices a one-inch-tall mollusk with a googly eye, opened with $169,606 on six screens, for a per-screen average of $28,267.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. 

1. (Tie) “Elvis,” $30.5 million.

1. (Tie) “Top Gun: Maverick,” $30.5 million.

3. “Jurassic World: Dominion,” $26.4 million.

4. “Black Phone,” $23.4 million.

5. “Lightyear,” $17.7 million.

6. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” $1.7 million.

7. “Jugjugg Jeeyo,” $725,000.

8. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” $533,000.

9. “The Bob's Burgers Movie,” $513,000.

10. “The Bad Guys,” $440,000.

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