Fuelling box office rebound, ‘A Quiet Place II’ opens with USD58.5M

Jake Coyle

NEW YORK (AP) — Movie-going increasingly looks like it didn’t die during the pandemic. It just went into hibernation.

John Krasinski’s thriller sequel A Quiet Place Part II opened over the Memorial Day weekend to a pandemic-best USD48.4 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

Including yesterday’s holiday, the studio forecasts the film will gross USD58.5 million in North America. It added another USD22 million in ticket sales overseas.

The film’s performance cheered a movie industry that has been punished and transformed by the pandemic. Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place Part II, which was on the cusp of opening in March before theatres shut, was the first big film this year — and one of the only larger budget COVID-era releases beside Christopher Nolan’s Tenet — to open exclusively in theatres.

Distribution Chief for Paramount Chris Aronson called the opening “an unqualified success”.

“It’s a huge sigh of a relief and a sense of optimism for sure,” Aronson said. “Movies, movie-going, movie theatres aren’t dead. Yes, they’ve been threatened but they’re proving once again that they’re resilient and that people do want to have that communal experience.”

Many studios have trotted out hybrid release plans during the pandemic, debuting films simultaneously in the home. The Walt Disney Co did that this weekend with its live-action PG-13 Cruella De Vil prequel, Cruella, making it available to Disney+ subscribers for USD30. In theatres, it grossed USD21.3 million, Disney said, and an estimated USD26.4 million over the four-day weekend. Cruella also added USD16.1 million in 29 international territories. Disney didn’t say how much the film made on the company’s streaming platform.

Marcus (Noah Jupe), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) brave the unknown in A Quiet Place Part II. PHOTO: AP

A Quiet Place Part II will also turn to streaming after 45 days in theatres when it becomes available on Paramount+. One clear result of the pandemic is that the theatrical window has shrunk, probably permanently. Three months was once the customary length of a movie’s run in theatres. The year’s previous best debut belonged to Warner Bros’ Godzilla vs Kong, which opened with USD32.2 million, or USD48.5 million over its first five days, while simultaneously streaming on HBO Max.

The contrasting release strategies between A Quiet Place Part II and Cruella offered a test case for Hollywood. How much does a day-and-date release cost a movie like Cruella in ticket sales? Is it worth it? Without knowing how much Cruella benefitted Disney+, a true comparison isn’t possible. But the strong returns for the theatre-only A Quiet Place Part II are telling, said senior media analyst for data firm Comscore Paul Dergarabedian. He called it a “pivotal weekend” for the movie industry that proved predictions of the movie theatre’s demise “flat-out wrong”.

“That A Quiet Place Part II did so well makes a strong case that a theatrical-first release for a big movie is the way to go,” Dergarabedian said.

“This is the best possible news for an industry that’s been dealing with probably the most profoundly challenging chapter in the history of the movie theatre.”

The debut of A Quiet Place Part II was much watched throughout Hollywood as the kickoff to its delayed summer movie season. After largely sitting out the pandemic, or diverting to streaming platforms, a lineup of blockbusters are again queuing up. On tap are Warner Bros’ In the Heights, Universals’ F9 and Disney’s Black Widow.

Last week, Universal Pictures’ ninth instalment in the Fast & Furious franchise, F9, opened with USD162 million in ticket sales in eight international markets, and USD135 million in China alone. In its second weekend, F9, which opens in North America on June 25, raced toward USD230 million worldwide.

A Quiet Place Part II had already had its red-carpet premiere in March last year, and spent some of its marketing budget. But it opened remarkably in line with predictions of how many tickets it would sell before the onset of the pandemic.

In the intervening months, Paramount sold off many of its films to streamers — Coming 2 America, The Trial of the Chicago 7 — but Krasinski and the studio felt strongly that the hushed intensity of A Quiet Place Part II worked best on the big screen.

In an interview ahead of the film’s release, Krasinski said a theatrical release was “non-negotiable”. And Krasinski worked hard to stoke excitement, travelling the country in the week leading up to release to surprise moviegoers.

Still, given the circumstances, he had little idea whether audiences would come out.

“As bizarre as the entire year has been is how bizarre whatever opening weekend is,” Krasinski said. “I don’t really know what it is anymore.”

In the end, A Quiet Place Part II performed a lot like how the first one did. That 2018 hit, which ultimately grossed USD340 million globally on a USD17 million budget, launched with USD50.2 million in North American ticket sales. Sequels usually do better than the original but Part II had far more challenges due to pandemic.

Chief Executive of IMAX Rich Gelfond, where A Quiet Place Part II earned USD4.1 million domestically, called the film “the first domestic release this year to cross the threshold from ‘great opening weekend given the pandemic’ to ‘great opening weekend, period'”.

Memorial Day weekend, usually one of the busiest for theatres, still didn’t look like it normally does at the movies. Total box office exceeded USD80 million but that’s about a third of the holiday weekend’s normal business. Last Memorial Day, when nearly all operating theatres were drive-ins, ticket sales amounted to USD842,000, according to Comscore.

Many theatres, particularly in New York and Los Angeles, are still operating with social distancing measures. But guidelines are thawing. Last week, the nation’s top theatre chains — AMC, Regal, Cinemark — said they would no longer require vaccinated moviegoers to wear face masks.