The last movie star in the age of streaming. And now Hollywood is looking to Tom Cruise to lure grown-ups to theaters.

The helicopter had the star's name painted on it, the letters coming into focus as it landed on the retired aircraft carrier, which was adorned for the occasion with an expansive red carpet and a smattering of fighter jets. Tom Cruise. Top Gun Maverick.

It couldn't have been anyone else.

Decked out in a slim-fitting suit, his hair a little shaggier and his face a little craggier than when he first played Lt. Pete ''Maverick'' Mitchell more than three decades ago.

Mr. Cruise took the stage on the U.S.S. Midway while Harold Faltermeyer theme music played in the background.

Gesturing to the spectacle around him, including the crowd of fans and members of the media, Mr. Cruise said :

''This moment right here, to see everybody at this time, no masks. Everyone. This is, this is pretty epic.''

It also felt like a time capsule. The three-hour promotional escapade - which included F-18 fighter jets executing a flyover to the sound of a Lady Gaga song from the film - harkened back to the halcyon days of Hollywood glamour.

Days when Disney didn't think twice about an aircraft carrier San Diego to Hawaii for the premier of Michael Bay's ''Pearl Harbour'' in 2001. Or when the same studio built a 500-seat theater at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla, for the premier of Armageddon.''

That kind of extravagance seems almost unthinkable today, when the streaming algorithm and its accompanying digital marketing efforts have replaced the old-fashioned boots-on-the-ground publicity tour that involved stars circumnavigating the globe and studios spending millions to turn movie  openings into cultural events.

Making these events go were the film's megastars. In Hollywood, stardom has an elastic definition. There are screen legends who are not box-office stars.

The global movie star is someone whose name is the draw. They have broad appeal, transcending language, international borders and generations. In short they can bring people of all ages into theaters around the world by virtue of their screen personas.

They are the kind of stars - such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone - that blockbuster were built around for decades.

And they are the kind of stars who no longer really exist. Actors like Dwayne Johnson, Zendaya, Tom Holland, Ryan Reynolds and Chris Pratt are ultrasuccessful, but they are also either closely tied to a specific franchise or superhero film or have yet to prove their multigenerational appeal.

Now, it's the characters that count. Three actors have portrayed Spider Man and six have donned the Batman cowl for the big screen. Audiences have shown up for all of them. The avengers may unite to hue box-office returns but how much does it matter who's wearing the tights?

Yet there is Mr. Cruise, trundling along as if the world hasn't changed at all. For him, in many ways, it hasn't. He was 24 when ''Top Gun'' made him box-office royalty and he has basically stayed there since.

He's the last remaining global star who still makes movies to be released in theaters only. He hasn't signed up for a limited series. He hasn't started his own tequila brand.

Instead, the promotional tour for ''Top Gun : Maverick,'' which just opened, ran nearly three weeks and extended from Mexico City to Japan with a stop in Cannes for the annual film festival.

In London, he walked the red-carpet with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Mr. Cruise still commands first-dollar gross, which means that in addition to a significant upfront fee, he receives a percentage of the box-office gross from the moment his films hit theaters.

He is one of the last stars in Hollywood to earn such a sweetheart deal, buyed by the fact that his 44 films have brought in $4.4 billion at the box-office in the United States and Canada alone, according to Box Office Mojo.

Right now, Hollywood is in dire need of a hit.

The World Students Society thanks author Nicole Sperling.


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