In what could be the great reawakening to the domestic theatrical box office or merely another false start, Paramount’s A Quiet Place part II topped the long Memorial Day weekend with $57 million. That includes $47.4 million over the Fri-Sun, which is essentially tied with A Quiet Place’s $50 million Fri-Sun debut in April of 2018. Consider the number of big sequels to well-liked originals (Deadpool 2, It Chapter 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Last Jedi, Avengers: Age of Ultron) that still opened below their blow-out predecessors. That the debut for the John Krasinski-directed/Emily Blunt-starring horror sequel essentially tied the opening of its predecessor would count as a win even in normal circumstances. More importantly, the film was tracking for an over/under $60 million debut in March 2020. 14 months later, it didn’t miss a beat.
That is the most optimistic thing about this strong domestic debut. Yes, it shattered “pandemic-era” box office records for a Fri-Sun opening and should easily be the first (or second, depending on Godzilla Vs. Kong) movie to top $100 million domestic since Sonic the Hedgehog in February of 2020. But we’re dealing with a heavily-anticipated sequel that got delayed by 14 months and opened amid a pandemic with a huge swath of theaters (including most in Canada) closed and/or operating with limitations on capacity and hours-of-operation. And now it has nabbed an opening weekend almost identical to where it was supposed to land in pre-Covid times. Like Godzilla Vs. Kong ($98.3 million) and Wrath of Man ($27.5 million), it’s a huge Covid-era win by playing about as well as could have been hoped in non-Covid times.
Might A Quiet Place part II have surged via strong reviews and increased buzz and nabbed a $70-$75 million debut sans Covid variables? Maybe, but it’s just as likely that the tracking was dead on then and now. And if the opening was muted by the world around us, then we may see that reflected in post-debut legs. Even with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opening on Friday, the month of June is pretty sparse in terms of one or two biggies per week prior to F9 kicking off the “big-big movies” portion of the summer. Either way, if it plays like a normal Memorial Day opener (that people liked), we’re looking at a multiplier between 2.3x (Pirates 5) and 2.5 (Men in Black III) for an over/under $135 million.
Best-case-scenario is a run like Aladdin (3 x $117 million in 2019), which would be around $170 million, or within spitting distance of the original’s $188 million cume. Conventional wisdom for conventional sequels suggests that A Quiet Place part II would open bigger but flame out sooner for a domestic cume just under its predecessor with the hope that overseas box office would increase. The film earned around $80 million worldwide this weekend. Business as usual is a big win in these circumstances and gives great hope for the summer biggies (Black Widow and F9, natch) that under normal circumstances were always going to be huge. While this does not mean that every summer 2021 release is going to perform exactly as it would have under non-Covid circumstances, but the potential now exists for just that.
That doesn’t mean that Jungle Cruise will be Disney’s first big new live-action franchise since National Treasure, or that The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It will play like The Nun, but this weekend shows that, even with everything else going on, audiences will still show up for genuine event movies in numbers equivalent to the pre-pandemic era. Does that mean that non-event movies and less certain franchise plays will be even dicier commercial prospects? Yes, as films that might have been “worth seeing in a theater” 14 months ago may not make the cut, especially with smaller theatrical windows and concurrent streaming availability. But for the guaranteed/surefire tentpoles, the safest of safe commercial biggies, there exists a possibility that they might just pick up right where they metaphorically left off. We’ll see…