Sony Pictures head honchos Sanford Panitch and Josh Greenstein believe their studio deserves some credit for the stratospheric success of Top Gun: Maverick.
In a recent interview with Vulture, the pair claimed that Sony’s decision to release movies including Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Spider-Man: No Way Home exclusively in theaters during the pandemic paved the way for Top Gun: Maverick’s $1.2 billion (and counting) haul at the global box office.
“There’s so much press about Top Gun right now,” Panitch said. “It’s like, ‘The movie business is back!' In a weird way, I would say Top Gun is benefitting from us taking our shot. Venom is the start of that story that allows Top Gun to do the kind of business it did. These things don’t happen overnight. It’s a seeding.”
“When we first started releasing movies last October, there were really no other big movies,” Greenstein added. “Everyone had pushed their big movies to this year, to this summer. We took a big gamble putting Venom in theaters. Then we doubled down with Ghostbusters. Then our biggest bet was when every other tentpole had fled, we tripled down with Spider-Man – our biggest, most important piece of IP.”
The Sony Pictures co-presidents aren’t wrong to wear the success of their theatrical releases with pride. Venom: Let There Be Carnage grossed a worldwide total of $506 million following its release in October last year, before Ghostbusters: Afterlife scooped $204 million and Spider-Man: No Way Home stormed to a record-breaking $1.9 billion (becoming the third-highest-grossing film of all time in the process).
However, to try and lay claim to a portion of Top Gun: Maverick’s stellar box office haul is a little strong. The Paramount tentpole was always destined for a big screen release – it was delayed three times to avoid being condemned to streaming services – and its success came down to a combination of overwhelmingly (and unexpectedly) positive critical reception, word-of-mouth popularity and generation-spanning appeal as a legacy sequel.
What’s more, Sony was far from the first studio to brave a return to cinemas. The Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) and Last Night in Soho (Universal) released theatrically in August and September, respectively (i.e. before Venom: Let There Be Carnage), while the release dates for other 2021 movies like No Time to Die (Universal) and Dune (Warner Bros.) were already set prior to any theatrical success Sony would go on to enjoy.
Then there’s the small matter of Tenet (Warner Bros.), which gambled on an exclusive theatrical release – to the tune of $365 million – way back in September 2020 (we even published a piece at the time praising director Christopher Nolan’s efforts to spearhead a much-needed box office recovery).
Respectfully, then, Venom: Let There Be Carnage had little bearing on Top Gun: Maverick's commercial performance – at least in our view.
Or maybe it did. But that begs the question: why didn’t its recent Sony stablemates Morbius and Where the Crawdads Sing enjoy the same symbiotic bounce?