#1: Theatrical exclusivity is key
What accounts for the discrepancy in earnings between Memorial Day weekend’s two major theatrical debuts? Theatrical exclusivity.
Paramount’s science-fiction horror sequel A Quiet Place Part II played exclusively in cinemas, where it will remain for 45 days before moving to Paramount+. Meanwhile, this weekend’s other major debut, Cruella, opened day-and-date in both theaters and for a $30 surcharge for Disney+ subscribers.
Quiet‘s estimated $57.0M four-day opening, when including Memorial Day Monday, was actually +4.8% above its predecessor’s $54.3M four-day take.
On the other hand, Cruella‘s estimated $26.5M four-day debut came in -32.3 percent behind the similar Disney villain-themed Maleficent: Mistress of Evil‘s $39.1M four-day haul.
Even 1996’s similar Cruella De Vil-themed live action 101 Dalmatians began with a $33.5M three-day opening, larger than Cruella‘s four-day opening despite being fewer days and coming out 25 years ago.
#2: Paramount is back
Of the so-called “five major studios,” Paramount was the only one not to have released any true tentpole titles in cinemas since the pandemic.
Paramount’s only other theatrical release in 2021 had been a re-release of 1986’s Top Gun, to help build anticipation for November’s sequel Top Gun: Maverick. That re-release had earned less a million dollars so far, as had their October 2020 horror Spell, their November 2020 action comedy Buddy Games, and their December 2020 recut version of 1990’s The Godfather Part III titled Mario Puzo’s The Godfather: Coda.
Two other Paramount releases, August 2020’s animated The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run and October 2020’s adventure Love and Monsters, fared a bit better but still earned less than $5 million each.
Now, within a single weekend, Paramount’s 2021 theatrical total of $57.4M already eclipses one of the other big five studios: Sony with $28.4M. Paramount will also overtake Universal’s $62.4M year-to-date total within the week, and Disney’s $77.9M not long after. (Warner Bros., leading with $273.2M for the year so far, remains too far away to catch for now.)
#3: The largest overall weekend since the pandemic
The weekend’s total box office stands at an estimated $80.1M for the three-day and $98.5M for the four-day.
Even looking at the smaller three-day number, for an apples-to-apples comparison with most other weekends, that $80.1M represents the largest frame since the pandemic hit. It eclipses the $57.0M earned during the April 23-25 weekend, when Mortal Kombat and Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train both debuted.
This most recent frame also marks only the second weekend during the recovery to outearn the $53.7M of March 13-15, 2020, the “partially shut down” final weekend before cinemas completely shuttered nationwide.
#4: The first sequel to best its predecessor during the recovery
Sequels are the lifeblood of modern Hollywood. While several have debuted theatrically since the pandemic, A Quiet Place Part II is the first to beat its predecessor on such a key metric as opening weekend.
Godzilla vs. Kong has made more money than any other film since the pandemic, with $98.3M and counting. Still, it fell a bit below both its predecessors, Godzilla: King of the Monsters with $110.5M and Kong: Skull Island with $168.0M.
Wonder Woman 1984‘s $46.5M total was about one-ninth of the original Wonder Woman‘s $412.5M, although the former debuting day-and-date simultaneously in both theaters and on HBO Max didn’t help its theatrical gross.
The Croods: A New Age has earned $58.2M, just less than one-third of the original The Croods with $187.1M.
While it remains to be seen whether A Quiet Place Part II will outearn its predecessor in total, its superior four-day opening marks the first such “better than its predecessor” statistic of its kind during the recovery.
#5: Spiral is holding up surprisingly well
For the prior two weekends, the top movie at the box office had been Lionsgate’s horror Spiral, starring Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson in a spinoff of the long-running Saw franchise. With another massive new horror movie opening this weekend, surely that would hurt Spiral considerably.
Think again. After declining a mild -47.4 percent in its sophomore frame, Spiral only suffered a mild drop again, taking third place with an estimated $2.2M three-day and $2.7M four-day weekend. For the three-day figure, that represents only a -50.4 percent decline.
Among the nine installments in the Saw franchise, that ranks in the upper half by third-weekend hold. Keep in mind that most of those other installments suffered larger third-weekend drops despite not competing against a fellow horror release.
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