You can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from studio executives across Hollywood.
After a brutal year and change for the movie theater business, the North American box office is finally showing signs of life again.
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That’s mostly thanks to director John Krasinski’s post-apocalyptic thriller “A Quiet Place Part II.” The sequel collected a roaring $48 million between Friday and Sunday, exceeding expectations and posting the biggest three-day haul of the pandemic era. The Paramount Pictures film, currently playing in 3,726 venues, is expected to generate a sizable $58 million through Memorial Day on Monday.
Those ticket sales are significant because they are not far off from what the movie was projected to make prior to the pandemic. (The sequel was originally set to release in March of 2020, and, well, we all know what happened then.) The original “A Quiet Place” opened to $50 million in 2018, a huge result for a movie that’s not based on existing IP. The studio’s decision to hold the follow-up film until theaters reopened to a significant degree proved to be prudent. The first film cost just $17 million to produce, while the second carries a $61 million price tag.
“This is an outstanding opening,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “[It’s] well above average for a horror sequel.” He adds that “A Quiet Place Part II” could have debuted to $60 million if all U.S. theaters had reopened. “Still,” Gross says, “this movie is going to make a lot of money and bring enormous value to streaming.”
“A Quiet Place Part II,” which sees the return of Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe as a family forced to live in near-silence, has the benefit of getting an exclusive theatrical release. It will move to Paramount Plus, the streaming service owned by its parent company ViacomCBS, in 45 days. Recent releases, including the Warner Bros. and Legendary tentpole “Godzilla vs. Kong” and Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon,” premiered simultaneously on digital platforms. Despite its hybrid rollout on HBO Max, “Godzilla vs. Kong” was the first Hollywood triumph since the onset of COVID-19. It previously boasted the best start with $32 million for the three-day weekend and $48 million in its first five days on the big screen. It’s presently just shy of the $100 million mark in the U.S. with $98.3 million in ticket sales.
In reviews, many critics mentioned that the edge-of-your-seat suspense in “A Quiet Place Part II” makes it perfectly suited for the big screen. With that in mind, it’s no surprise the film did exceptionally well on premium formats. Of its $58 million four-day weekend bounty, a (pandemic) record $5 million came from Imax screens.
As Imax CEO Rich Gelfod put it: “‘A Quiet Place Part II’ is the first domestic release this year to cross the threshold from ‘great opening weekend given the pandemic’ to ‘great opening weekend, period’ — offering undeniable proof that the domestic box office is back.” He continued, “The film’s stellar results give the box office a strong jolt of momentum heading into the summer, and the many blockbusters that held out for an exclusive theatrical release stand to benefit.”
This weekend’s other major release, Disney’s live-action “Cruella” starring Emma Stone, pulled in promising numbers for a movie that’s currently playing in homes. (It’s available to rent on Disney Plus for $30.) The movie, a punk rock origin story about the infamous puppy-hating “101 Dalmatians” villain, is estimated to bring in $21.3 million from 3,892 theaters over the three-day weekend and $26.5 million through Monday.
Internationally, the PG-13 “Cruella” has posted $16.1 million from 29 overseas countries. That brings its total earnings to $37.4 million globally, with projections of $42.6 million through Memorial Day.
After a run of movies that were geared toward male moviegoers (“Godzilla vs. Kong,” video game adaptation “Mortal Kombat” and the pulls-no-punches “Wrath of Man,” to name a few), audiences for both “A Quiet Place 2” and “Cruella” leaned toward the ladies — with 53% of ticket buyers for the former and 64% for the latter identifying as female. For the most part, patrons appear to be pleased with their purchases: “A Quiet Place Part II” generated an “A-” CinemaScore, an improvement from the first film’s “B+” grade. Meanwhile, “Cruella” scored an “A” from opening weekend crowds.
Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend is one of the most popular times of year to visit the movies. While box office figures will fall short of previous holiday weekends, overall revenues are expected to reach above $100 million for the first time in more than a year, according to Comscore. Around 75% of U.S. theaters have reopened, with many locations still facing capacity restrictions.
“This is a hugely significant weekend for exhibition, an industry that has been systematically and methodically working its way back from one of the greatest challenges in its history,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore. “The performance of the two new releases should pave the way for renewed confidence in the undeniable appeal of the movie theater experience for consumers.”
Elsewhere at the domestic box office, the horror film “Spiral” — starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson — slid to third place after back-to-back weekends at the top spot. The chilling installment in the gruesome “Saw” franchise added another $2.1 million, taking its three-week tally to $20 million in the U.S. Jason Statham’s “Wrath of Man” landed in fourth place with $2 million. After a month in theaters, the vigilante action adventure has grossed $22.7 million.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” rounded out the top five on box office charts. The family friendly cartoon made $1.9 million in its 13th weekend of release. The PG film, which has been offered on Disney Plus Premier Access, has amassed $51 million to date.
Since movie theaters first began to reopen last summer, the box office had returned in fits and starts with only a dribbling of new movies on the calendar. Now, cinemas finally seem poised for a genuine comeback with a steady stream of blockbuster-hopefuls arriving in June, such as “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (June 4), the splashy musical “In the Heights” (June 11), “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (June 16) and “Fast and Furious” sequel “F9” (June 25). That should be enough to keep the big screen sizzling through summer.
“It will take some time to get up to speed,” Gross, of Franchise Entertainment Research, predicts. “But it should start to build now, with big releases every weekend ahead.”
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