'A Quiet Place' is a huge No. 1 at the box office, boosting Paramount

Posted April 8, 2018 3:17 p.m. EDT
Updated April 26, 2018 2:55 p.m. EDT

LOS ANGELES — A desperately needed turnaround may be starting to take hold at Paramount Pictures, which found its first hit in two years over the weekend by making a wild bet on a nearly dialogue-free horror movie.

“A Quiet Place,” which received rapturous reviews, sold an estimated $50 million in tickets at theaters in the United States and Canada, or twice as much as box office analysts had projected, resulting in No. 1 bragging rights. The PG-13 film, which cost $17 million to make, not including marketing, stars the married-in-real-life John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as a couple trying to evade creatures who respond to the slightest noise.

The horror genre, once a Hollywood backwater, has become an artistic hotbed — a corner of the mainstream movie business where filmmakers have been able to take risks with original concepts, largely because they cost so little compared to the “tent pole” fantasies studios now obsess over. And ticket buyers, especially teenagers and young adults — the hardest groups to pry away from their Netflix accounts — have been responding, making hits out of “Get Out,” “It,” “Don’t Breathe,” “The Witch” and “The Visit.”

“It’s about the story,” said Kyle Davies, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution, adding that horror movies are fun to watch in theaters. “That communal experience can’t be replicated at home.”

“A Quiet Place” was directed by Krasinski and produced by a team that paradoxically included Michael Bay, best known for his deafening “Transformers” movies. Other producers included Andrew Form and Bradley Fuller, who (with Jason Blum and Bay) have powered “The Purge” horror series, which will return in July with a fourth chapter, “The First Purge.”

To say that Paramount has recently been a quiet place would be exceedingly kind. The Viacom-owned studio has struggled with one misfire after another, including “Sherlock Gnomes,” “Suburbicon” and “Baywatch.” It ranks last among Hollywood’s major studios in domestic market share. At least six senior Paramount executives have been replaced in the last year.

“A Quiet Place” was announced in March 2017, before Paramount’s new management team was assembled. But the studio’s current leaders get credit for fulfilling the project’s promise.

In particular, Paramount marketers put together a clever campaign that broadened the film’s appeal beyond horror fans. “You can’t throw a number like this without playing to everyone,” Davies said, referring to the opening-weekend total. Effective marketing maneuvers included screenings and stunts at the South by Southwest Film Festival and custom ads that ran in theaters featuring noisy moviegoers who are attacked.

Krasinksi, whose two previous efforts as a director flopped in theaters, this time pushed Steven Spielberg into second place at the weekend box office derby. Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” (Warner Bros.) took in about $25.1 million for a sturdy two-week domestic total of $96.9 million, according to comScore, which compiles box office data.

“Ready Player One” has collected an additional $294.4 million overseas. Ticket sales in China have been particularly strong. Dan Farah, a “Ready Player One” producer who worked since 2010 to get the complicated film made, credited “quintessential Spielberg movie magic” and the film’s storyline for its global appeal. “Ready Player One” depicts a future in which anyone can enter a virtual world called the Oasis and “go anywhere, do anything, be anyone — regardless of your borders, economic status, race, sex or beliefs — which is a universally appealing idea,” Farah noted.

Third place went to “Blockers” (Universal), a raunchy sex comedy directed by Kay Cannon. It sold about $21.4 million in tickets, on par with prerelease analyst expectations and delivering the best opening for an R-rated comedy since “Girls Trip” arrived to $31.2 million last summer. “Blockers” received strong reviews and cost less than $20 million to make.