The Economics of Being Tom Cruise

40 years in Hollywood by the Numbers

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Tom Cruise is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But, with Top Gun: Maverick, he’s accomplished something he’s never done before — a $100-million-dollar opening weekend.

We know, we know, that can’t be right, can it? The same guy who’s had a #1 movie at the box office for five consecutive decades? The one who turned “Show me the money!” into his personal mantra?

It’s true.

TC’s been labeled one of Hollywood’s “last true movie stars”, but he hasn’t been all that successful at bringing in opening day crowds. Before his record-setting Memorial Day weekend, cracking that $100-million barrier was mission impossible for Cruise. And, before you ask, nope, none of the Mission Impossible movies came close, despite the franchise raking in a combined $1.15 billion USD at the domestic box office, and over $3.5B worldwide.

What’s taken so long?

For starters, Cruise famously turned down Iron Man. If you want to dominate ticket sales in the 21st century, it pays to be a superhero. Six out of the top 10 best opening weekends feature one or more of Marvel’s greatest heroes. 

It’s also a sign of the times. In the mid-‘90s, Cruise made history as the first actor to tally $100MM+ in five consecutive releases. (He beat that streak with seven straight in the early 2000s.) But that $100-million mark isn’t what it used to be. In the last 10 years, 45 movies have hit $100M on opening weekend alone.

This week, Top Gun: Maverick became the #64 film to do so since 2002.

And Tom’s about to cash in

Cruise was reportedly “only” paid $13 million for the long-awaited Top Gun sequel, but savvy negotiating stands to net him 10x that from ticket sales, thanks to something called “first-dollar gross.” This means Tom is getting a cut of the movie’s total box office revenue, not just the profits—starting on day one. So, out of your $12 ticket, $2.40 of that is going straight to TC. In other words, we’re all in Tom Cruise’s pocket.

Show him the money, indeed.