“Top Gun: Maverick” broke a new record thanks in part to National Cinema Day

The movie theater business received a boost from a new marketing that caters to film fans
 A "Top Gun: Maverick" screening event in Barcelona, Spain in May. 
 A "Top Gun: Maverick" screening event in Barcelona, Spain in May. 
Photo: Xavi Torrent (Getty Images)
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The first National Cinema Day wasn’t just a success for the movie theater business, it also helped Top Gun: Maverick soar higher, pushing it past Black Panther as the fifth-highest grossing domestic movie of all time at $701 million.

National Cinema Day allowed moviegoers to pay just $3 per ticket for any movie on over 30,000 screens at more than 3,000 movie theater locations on Sept. 3. The promotion was launched by the Cinema Foundation, a non-profit created by the National Association of Theatre Owners to foster the growth of the movie theater business.

“We wanted to do something to celebrate moviegoing,” said Cinema Foundation president Jackie Brenneman in a statement prior to the launch of the event. “We’re doing it by offering a ‘thank you’ to the moviegoers that made this summer happen, and by offering an extra enticement for those who haven’t made it back [to movie theaters] yet.”

A number of studios, including Universal, Warner Bros., Disney, Lionsgate, Paramount, A24, and Amazon Studios, worked with the organization to offer in-theater sneak previews. Most notably, Sony re-released Spider-Man: No Way Home in theaters in conjunction with the event, including additional footage in the post-credits scene to lure super fans back to the theater.

Fan-focused fake holidays are Hollywood’s best new marketing tool

National Cinema Day follows in the footsteps of other film-oriented artificial “holidays” designed to drum up fan enthusiasm, such as Star Wars Day (May 4) and Alien Day (April 26).

On Sunday, Sept. 4, AMC CEO Adam Aron publicly celebrated the success National Cinema Day. “AMC sold a huge 1.6 million tickets and a ton of food/drink in U.S. for yesterday’s National Cinema Day,” Aron wrote on Twitter. “‘Movie theatres are dead’ is such a load of…”

Theatre Owners’s publication, Box Office Pro, claims that the promotion helped to generate $24.3 million in box office revenue, roughly 9% higher than the previous Saturday.

National Cinema Day

Movie theaters are still recovering from the pandemic, Cinema Day provided a much needed boost

Unlike the same period in 2021, when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings debuted with a $95 million domestic opening, this Labor Day Weekend didn’t have a blockbuster movie slated for release. Studios typically avoid releasing blockbuster films on Labor Day due to the seasonal transition from summer movies to fall releases, competing marketing noise with international film festivals, the fact that kids are going back to school, and Labor Day’s lack of a notable marketing hook like Christmas, for example, has.

Nevertheless, Top Gun: Maverick’s $8 million haul after nearly four months in theaters, and Spider-Man’s return to the top three after dominating 2021 can still be considered a win for the pandemic-battered movie theater business. The top Labor Day weekend movie in 2020 was Tenet, earning roughly $12 million, and in 2019 it was Angel Has Fallen drawing in $15 million.

A spokesperson for Theatre Owners told Quartz that the group is “discussing next steps,” but wouldn’t say if National Cinema Day would return for 2023.