Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

We All Owe Tom Cruise A Thanks For Saving The Theater Industry

In this movie, Tom Cruise saves the world. In that movie, Tom Cruise saves the country. In the movie he manages to squeeze in-between, Tom Cruise is trying to keep a low profile, but still manages to save something. Man can't help himself. He's Tom Cruise. 

You know how Cruise's movies go at this point. He goes by many names, but ultimately, the vast majority of his recent movies focus on a Tom Cruise-looking guy who ends conflicts, does some wild stuff, and makes the bad guys pay. He's played enough vampires, offbeat movie producers and Oscar bait characters by now that we know he can act. Really, it's fine that he's all-in on being the ultimate action hero. The real-life Cruise shares this penchant for helping people out, too. The untold truth of Tom Cruise is full of things he's done for others, from helping virtual strangers in extreme crisis situations to bombarding acquaintances with delicious cake. 

And if you ask a certain industry bigwig, Cruise's real-life penchant for saving things has leveled up: In industry event footage that's surfaced on the @marisatomay Twitter account, some guy called Steven Spielberg gave Cruise a pep talk for the ages, courtesy of the considerable box office accolades of "Top Gun: Maverick."  

"You saved Hollywood's a**, and you might have saved theatrical distribution," Spielberg gushed at Cruise. "Seriously, 'Maverick' might have saved the entire theatrical industry."

That's some mighty tall praise, but it's coming from a guy who definitely knows about the magic of making movies. So, why is "Maverick" the object of Spielberg's affection, instead of, say, the also very successful "Avatar: The Way of Water?"  Let's take a look at what's what, and why we all might just owe Cruise thanks for saving the movie theater industry.

Tom Cruise managed to do the impossible at the time of Hollywood's greatest need

Without knowing Steven Spielberg personally, there's obviously no way of determining the exact nature of his complimentary words to Tom Cruise. Maybe he's just a super polite guy, and says that to everyone he meets? 

While it's fun to imagine Spielberg mingling at a moviemaker party and politely telling Kevin James that "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" saved the movie industry, it's far more likely that he really meant what he said to Cruise. After all, he's not the only guy making such statements. "There are not enough adjectives to describe the importance of the box office performance of 'Top Gun: Maverick' to the industry, having come at a time when naysayers remained skeptical of the ability of the movie theater to draw audiences," media analyst Paul Dergarabedian spoke to CNN Business in September 2022, while "Maverick" was busy dominating the scene. "Truly a watershed event." 

He wasn't kidding, either. Earlier that year, before "Maverick" became the industry's savior, outlets like Forbes were analyzing the grim state of movie theaters, and the drastic effects the COVID-19 pandemic had on their cash flow. Since analysts and major Hollywood figures like Spielberg are crediting Cruise with the changing fates of the theatrical industry — as evidenced by the smash hit success of fellow cinematic spectacle "The Way of Water" so soon after "Maverick" — the audiences (and maybe James Cameron) should probably put a few thank you notes in the mail, as well. 

Cruise did a lot of heavy lifting to shape the movie into a theater juggernaut

The reason people are praising actor-producer Cruise, specifically, for "Top Gun: Maverick" is simple. In an interview with Looper's sister site /Film, "Maverick" editor Eddie Hamilton spoke of the entire crew's devotion to the project, and praised Cruise's deep involvement in the process — as well as the star's deep-set conviction to avoid direct-to-streaming distribution by making the movie a must-see cinematic experience. 

"Early in 2022, streaming was very in fashion and theatrical was very much on the back foot, obviously because of the pandemic," Hamilton said. "But Tom was like, 'No, no, no, we have to demonstrate to the industry that the crowds will show up for a movie and remind everybody of the joy of a movie, of that communal experience of watching a film in a theater, when everyone is laughing and when everyone is excited and when everyone is emotional at the end of the film, when everyone laughs'."

What Tom Cruise wants, it turns out that Tom Cruise gets — and with "Top Gun: Maverick," what he evidently wanted was to single-handedly resurrect his beloved movie theater experience by making a movie that couldn't be fully experienced any other way. No wonder Spielberg was patting the man in the back. In fact, we rather suspect he wasn't the only one that day. 

Top Gun: Maverick proved that Hollywood isn't entirely dependent on superhero movies and sci-fi blockbusters

There's another side to the success of "Top Gun: Maverick" that may explain why the industry is so keen to raise Cruise on the pedestal for it. See, while "Maverick" is quite obviously a sequel, it's one that was 36 years in the making — as well as a legitimately good and acclaimed movie in its own right. It's not a superhero movie, or a science fiction epic, or the most recent entry in a huge movie series.    

Now, Spielberg has made a blockbuster or two himself, and he's among the famous directors who have actually praised the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so he clearly doesn't mind the occasional cape, alien, or both in his entertainment. As such, it's unlikely that the praise he showered Cruise with was a veiled insult toward other successful recent films, be they from James Cameron or the Feigeverse. 

No, "Top Gun: Maverick" simply came along at the exact right time to reintroduce the audiences to the greatness of the moviegoing experience. It had no long-running, multimedia-spanning narratives to follow, no one was turned into an alien, and not a single person had to fight a CGI dinosaur. "Maverick" is just a very good, immaculately constructed blockbuster that tugs the nostalgia heartstrings while still standing on its own two legs. Sometimes, all the world needs is a nice piece of bubblegum to get its mind away from a long period of turmoil ... and for giving the world that at the exact right moment in time to lift peoples' spirits and help movie theaters back on their feet, Cruise deserves a nod and a tip of the hat.