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'Top Gun: Maverick' Set to Finally Start Streaming Next Week

Here's why it took nearly seven months for the movie sequel to make it to a streaming service.

Tom Cruise, in Top Gun: Maverick, flies upside-down in a jet over snowy mountains
Top Gun: Maverick stars Tom Cruise.
Paramount Pictures

Top Gun: Maverick kicked off the summer when it arrived on Memorial Day weekend, riding a wave of glowing reviews and racking up nearly $1.5 billion at the box office worldwide. It is the top-grossing movie of 2022 and the only film in history to be No. 1 at the box office on Memorial Day weekend and on Labor Day weekend.

It is finally about to hit a streaming service, nearly seven months since its release in theaters. 

When and where will Top Gun: Maverick start streaming? 

Top Gun: Maverick will become available to stream Dec. 22 on Paramount Plus. The movie is distributed by Paramount Pictures, which is owned by the same parent company as Paramount Plus.  

It hasn't been entirely hidden away. Top Gun: Maverick has been available to purchase or rent in online stores like Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and Vudu since late August. It also became available to buy on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD in early November.  

Will it be 'free' to stream? 

Paramount Plus requires a paid subscription, so nothing on the service is free -- unless you watch it while you're signed up on a free trial. Paramount Plus offers a seven-day free trial standard for all new members. Otherwise, it offers a subscription that's supported by ads for $5 a month and an ad-free tier for $10 a month.

So long as you have a subscription, you aren't likely to be charged anything extra to stream Top Gun: Maverick. Paramount Plus has never charged an additional fee to watch a movie on its service. And even though it has two different tiers, it has never "paywalled" a movie behind the higher-priced membership level. 

Why is it taking so long to start streaming?

Top Gun: Maverick is taking way longer to stream than other movies, especially for films released after the pandemic began in early 2020.

For other live-action movies in the last couple years, Paramount has tended to give them at least 45 days exclusively in theaters before making them available to stream on Paramount Plus. If Top Gun: Maverick had followed that 45-day timeline, it would've become available to stream on July 18. 

Most other Paramount movies -- February's Jackass Forever, March's The Lost City, April's Sonic the Hedgehog 2, July's Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank, September's Smile -- all hit Paramount Plus on the 46th day after reaching theaters. Even when Paramount holds back films longer, it typically hasn't been as long as with Top Gun. Scream, which hit theaters late last year, took about 53 days. 

Top Gun: Maverick is taking 209 days. 

Paramount has long indicated it wanted to keep Top Gun in theaters longer than those other films. 

"There are certain movies that are really made for the theatrical experience. Top Gun is a great example of that," CFO Naveen Chopra said at an investor conference in May before it hit cinemas. "You should see that movie in a theater, and it will stay in the theater for a longer period of time." 

For the past three months, Paramount executives have repeated a refrain that Top Gun: Maverick would start streaming after it has finished not only its theatrical cycle but also its sales period for other home-viewing formats. Paramount Pictures CEO Brian Robbins, for example, said in August that Top Gun: Maverick will "end up on Paramount Plus this year" -- but only after the "home entertainment window" has played out. 

This is a very retro release plan, fitting for a throwback sequel like Top Gun, and it's designed to maximize how much money the company can eke out from every viewing format. Paramount is progressively releasing it all the various sales-generating models before the movie can be streamed as part of a low-price subscription.

So-called "windows" like these were the standard pre-pandemic. But then COVID-19 coincided with an explosion in streaming services. The two forces pushed distributors to make movies available to stream much earlier than they ever had before. Before the pandemic, it was common for a movie to take six months to start streaming; now, it's much more common to wait only six weeks to three months. 

Top Gun: Maverick's nearly seven-month way is much longer than any other major theatrical release since COVID emerged.