The box office is getting back to normal, with moderate wins and sizable second weekend drops. After its triumphant first weekend, A Quiet Place Part II fell 59 per cent at the North American box office leaving room for the third movie in the Conjuring franchise to take first place.
Warner Bros' The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It earned an estimated US$24 million (S$31.8 million), according to studio estimates on Sunday (Jun 6), making it the biggest R-rated opening of the pandemic. The film opens in Singapore on Jul 1.
Paramount's A Quiet Place sequel meanwhile earned US$19.5 million in ticket sales, bringing its North American total to US$88.6 million. It opens in Singapore on Jun 10.
"You normally don't see two horror movies at the top of the chart. But it was a solid weekend for both movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. "The movie theatres are coming back and Memorial Day was no flash in the pan ... It feels like summer again."
The Conjuring 3 has Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga returning as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Although there's a whole extended universe set around these films that have thus far grossed over US$1.8 billion, this is the first Conjuring since 2016, and the first to be helmed by someone other than James Wan (Michael Graves directed). With an additional US$26.8 million from international territories, globally, the R-rated pic has grossed over US$57.1 million.
"It's a terrific result," said Jeff Goldstein, the head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. "We're continuing to see a ramp up of return to life outside of our homes. It was never going to be a light switch."
In a pre-pandemic world, The Conjuring 3 might have been considered a bit disappointing – the previous installments both opened around US$40 million. But, as Goldstein noted, the third films in a horror franchise often take a hit. It has another caveat too: The film is also currently streaming free for subscribers on HBO Max. Warner Media did not say how many people watched it on streaming over the weekend or how many new customers signed up for the service.
It has become more normal than not for films to embrace a hybrid day-and-date release strategy, with the major studios using their biggest titles to drive potential subscribers to their streaming services. A Quiet Place Part II had the rare distinction of being exclusively in theatres, but even so it will be a shorter stint than usual before it hits Paramount+.
The Walt Disney Co's Cruella, which opened in theatres last weekend, was also made available to rent on Disney+ for US$29.99 (S$38.98 in Singapore). The Emma Stone and Emma Thompson pic added US$11.2 million from 3,922 theatres this weekend to take third place. Disney also did not say how much it earned from streaming rentals, but the company did note the drop from last weekend was only 48 per cent. Globally, Cruella has earned US$87.1 million thus far.
The animated family film Spirit Untamed also opened wide theatrically this weekend in 3,211 theatres to an estimated US$6.2 million. The DreamWorks Animation film features the voices of Isabela Merced, Eiza Gonzalez, Julianne Moore, Marsai Martin and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Most family films have gone straight to streaming over the past year and many big studios are opting to continue with the strategy for the near future. Disney and Pixar's Luca is skipping theatres and going straight to Disney+, where it will be free for subscribers on Jun 16. DreamWorks Animation's Boss Baby sequel is also debuting on Peacock Kids and in theatres on Jul 2.
The North American theatrical landscape is still a bit hobbled by the pandemic. Most Canadian theatres remain closed and around 27 per cent of US locations are still shuttered too. Many chains have also said vaccinated customers can now go mask free in theatres.
Hollywood titles have also started performing better than they have been internationally during the pandemic over the past few weekends. In particular, Universal's latest in the Fast & Furious franchise, F9, continued to pick up speed prior to its US debut on Jun 25. This weekend F9, which has already grossed US$256 million from eight territories, became one of only 19 US movies to have earned more than US$200 million in China.
And although release strategies continue to differ company by company in unprecedented ways, Dergarabedian said the numbers are promising for the theatrical business even with the at-home viewing options.
"Over the past two weeks, the industry has been able to test out theatrical only (A Quiet Place Part II), a day and date with a (pay) subscription model (Cruella) and a day and date that's part of a subscription (The Conjuring 3). The numbers have been solid," Dergarabedian said. "As long as we keep getting solid movies released, we're going to see the box office ramp up week after week."