NEW YORK—Moviegoing 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 $48.4 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday. Including the Monday holiday, the studio forecasts the film will gross $58.5 million in North America. It added another $22 million in ticket sales overseas. The film’s performance cheered a movie industry that has been punished and transformed by the pandemic. Paramount Pictures’s A Quiet Place Part II, which was on the cusp of opening in March 2021 before theaters 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 theaters.
Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount, called the opening “an unqualified success.”
“It’s a huge sigh of a relief and a sense of optimism for sure,” Aronson said. “Movies, moviegoing, movie theaters 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 $30. In theaters, it grossed $21.3 million, Disney said, and an estimated $26.4 million over the four-day weekend. Cruella also added $16.1 million in 29 international territories. Disney didn’t say how much the film made on the company’s streaming platform.
A Quiet Place II will also turn to streaming after 45 days in theaters 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 theaters. The year’s previous best debut belonged to Warner Bros.’s Godzilla vs.Kong, which opened with $32.2 million, or $48.5 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 theater-only A Quiet Place Part II are telling, says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. He called it a “pivotal weekend” for the movie industry that proved predictions of the movie theater’s demise “flat-out wrong.”
“That 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 theater.” 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.’s In the Heights, Universals’s F9 and Disney’s Black Widow.
Last week, Universal Pictures’s ninth installment in the Fast & Furious franchise, F9, opened with $162 million in ticket sales in eight international markets, and $135 million in China alone. In its second weekend, F9, which opens in North America on June 25, raced toward $230 million worldwide.
In an interview ahead of the film’s release, Krasinski said a theatrical release was “non-negotiable.” And Krasinski worked hard to stoke excitement, traveling 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 $340 million globally on a $17 million budget, launched with $50.2 million in North American ticket sales. Sequels usually do better than the original but Part II had far more challenges due to pandemic.
Rich Gelfond, chief executive of IMAX, where A Quiet Place Part II earned $4.1 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.’”