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 Sunday. Including the Monday holiday, the studio forecasts the film will gross $58.5 million in North America.
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 2020 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 films 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 Plus 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 Plus. 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 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" benefited Disney Plus, 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.
The debut of "A Quiet Place Part II" was much watched throughout Hollywood as the kickoff to its delayed summer movie season. A lineup of would-be blockbusters are again queuing up. On tap are Warner Bros.' "In the Heights," Universals' "F9" and Disney's "Black Widow."
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.