Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
CLOSE ×
Search
Leaving AARP.org Website

You are now leaving AARP.org and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Who’s Deciding the Hit Movies this Summer? Grownups Are!

Despite COVID, viewers over 50 are returning to theaters and minting gold for films like 'Elvis' and 'Top Gun: Maverick'

(Left to right) Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Austin Butler as Elvis Presley in "Elvis"; Tom Cruise as Capt. Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell in "Top Gun: Maverick."
(Left to right) Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Austin Butler as Elvis Presley in "Elvis"; Tom Cruise as Capt. Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell in "Top Gun: Maverick."
Hugh Stewart/Warner Bros. Pictures; Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

Viewers over 50 gave Hollywood its first great news since COVID: two back-to-back No. 1 films, Top Gun: Maverick, the first billion-dollar hit for Tom Cruise (who turns 60 July 3), and surprise smash Elvis, with Tom Hanks (who turns 66 July 9) as manager Tom Parker.

“Elvis has older moviegoers to thank,” exclaimed The Hollywood Reporter. “56 percent of the audience so far is over the age of 35, including a whopping 29 percent over 55.”

member card

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

​About two-fifths of Cruise’s viewers were over 45, one-fifth over 55. Showbiz411 pundit Roger Friedman calls it “a bellwether maybe for older movie patrons returning to theaters.” Their word of mouth helped incite stampedes of younger crowds.

Don’t miss this: Your Ultimate Guide to This Summer’s Best Movies

​People who say they’re “very or somewhat comfortable” going to the movies just hit an all-time high, says Variety: A year ago, 59 percent were movie-comfy. Now 88 percent are ravenous for multiplex popcorn.

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

The real story: Grownups still want to go to the theater

​During COVID’s peak, says Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian, “Theaters chased the less reticent (mainly 18- to 24-year-old males)” to survive. “Many thought folks over 40 would be permanently ignored by Hollywood outside of home entertainment.” COVID isn’t gone, but grownups are back in theaters. 

​Besides the Hanks and Cruise hits, says Dergarabedian, recent hits The Lost CityThe Batman and Everything Everywhere All at Once, starring Michelle Yeoh, 59 (still a top 10 hit after 14 weeks), “provide strong evidence that it’s good business to serve more mature audiences, who have the resources and now the incentive to partake of the movie theater experience.”

Entertainment

AARP Members Only Access to Special Entertainment Content

Access curated AARP entertainment articles, essays, videos, films and more

See more Entertainment offers >

Don’t miss this: The Strange Love Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley

​Incredibly, says Indiewire expert Tom Brueggemann, the four-week rolling average of movies’ box office is only 9 percent below normal (pre-COVID). Another ray of hope is the heartwarming little indie that could, Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, a stop-motion animation about a Finding Nemo-like mollusk, costarring Isabella Rossellini, 70. It got a perfect 100 percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and Brueggemann says its box office was strong. 

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

And they value quality films, not just superhero franchises

​Over-50 cinephiles make such non-superhero, non-blockbuster art house movies possible — AARP’s pre-COVID 2017 study found that 75 percent of their audiences were grownups. Says Brueggemann, “The next test will be Sony’s release of Where the Crawdads Sing” July 13; the novel, a murder mystery, sold 12 million copies and features a lawyer inspired by Atticus Finch who is played in the film version by David Straithairn, 73.

​“What year is it?” wonders Friedman. “Everything old is new again as McCartney rocks Glastonbury, Stones take Hyde Park, Elvis [is] king of box office and so is Top Gun!”

​He adds, “Let’s not forget that the No. 1 song, ‘Running Up that Hill,’ is Kate Bush’s hit from 1985.” He notes it’s from TV’s hit Stranger Things, an homage to ’80s movies that relaunched Winona Ryder, 50. 

​Long homebound, grownups seem to be having their moment in pop culture. “The floodgates appear to be opening,” Dergarabedian says.

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.