Audiences are going to be confronted this weekend with something they haven’t seen in a long time: New movies they may actually want to watch in theaters.
In the first box office battle in ages, Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II” and Disney’s “Cruella” are expected to heat up an ice-cold domestic box office and kick off a delayed summer movie season.
The sequel to 2018’s “A Quiet Place,” starring Emily Blunt and directed by her husband John Krasinski, is expected to pull ahead of its competition. The nearly silent film is on track to collect $30 million over the weekend and $36 million through the Memorial Day holiday on Monday. That’s an impressive number given many cities continue to have capacity restrictions in place, and moviegoers, still skittish about the pandemic, have yet to return to their local cinema in droves.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is the rare potential blockbuster since the onset of COVID-19 to play exclusively in cinemas — at least, at a time when movie theaters are actually open. (After 45 days, it will land on the fledgling streaming service Paramount Plus.) When Christopher Nolan’s puzzling sci-fi spectacle “Tenet” debuted in 2020, a significant number of venues were closed. Recently released movies, including “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “Mortal Kombat” and “The Croods: A New Age,” were offered simultaneously (or a few weeks later) on digital platforms, but managed to draw solid crowds.
“Cruella,” a live-action origin story about the famous fur-loving villain from “101 Dalmatians,” isn’t having a traditional theatrical release. It will also be available on Disney Plus Premium Access, where subscribers can pay an extra $30 to rent the film.
It’s hard to tell if families, the target demographic for “Cruella,” will opt to watch the film from the comfort of their couches or, if after being stuck indoors for more than 14 months, they will be yearning to return to multiplexes. For that reason, tracking has been all over the place for “Cruella.” However, many box office prognosticators believe the film will collect around $17 million and $23 million between Friday and Sunday and could make above $30 million through Monday.
It may not be the traditional start to summer movie season, which is typically the busiest time of year. But the one-two punch of “A Quiet Place Part II” and “Cruella” should provide the jolt needed to rev up the beleaguered theater industry.
“Do I expect traditional Memorial Day weekend numbers? No,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore. “But I think we may be surprised by how strong the numbers are.”
It helps that 70% of U.S. theaters have resumed operations, according to Comscore, the largest percentage of reopened cinemas in months. “A Quiet Place Part II” is playing in 3,700 North American locations and “Cruella” is screening in more than 3,800 theaters. To compare, the original “A Quiet Place” played in 3,500 theaters in 2018.
The exhibition industry could use a win after months of bankruptcies, delays and disregard. Already, there’s been mounting optimism thanks to results for “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Demon Slayer.” In the coming weeks, Jon Chu’s adaptation of the musical “In the Heights” (June 11), Universal’s “Fast and Furious” sequel “F9” (June 25), Disney and Marvel’s “Black Widow” (July 9) and Warner Bros.’ “Space Jam: A New Legacy” (July 16) will make their way to theaters — with several set to debut simultaneously on streaming platforms.
“We’re still in uncharted territory,” Dergarabedian says. “This weekend is a really interesting test case for the industry.”
“A Quiet Place Part II” will also open internationally in 12 markets, representing 30% of its overseas footprint, including China.
The original film because an instant word-of-mouth sensation, driving opening weekend ticket sales in the U.S. to $50 million. The $17 million-budgeted movie went on to generate more than $340 million worldwide. The sequel was granted a substantially larger price tag at $61 million.
In March 2020, “A Quiet Place Part II” was days away from premiering in theaters just as COVID-19 upended the world. As a result, the movie was repeatedly delayed over the next 14 months. Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge says the sequel “amps up the scares” and notes the film may resonate even more after people have spent nearly a year in isolation.
The follow-up centers on the Abbott family as they continue living in silence to hide from creatures that hunt sound. This time, they’re also facing the terrors of the outside world. Millicent Simmonds, Cillian Murphy and Noah Jupe co-star.
“Cruella” is debuting internationally this weekend in most of the world, except China, France and Russia. Set in 1970s London, the PG-13 film follows Emma Stone as Estella de Villa, an aspiring fashion designer who later becomes obsessed with the idea of stealing puppies and skinning them for their fur. The cast includes Emma Thompson and Paul Walter Hauser. Craig Gillespie (“I, Tonya”) directed the movie.