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Box Office Preview: ‘A Quiet Place – Part II’ and ‘Cruella’ Will Test Movie Theaters’ Recovery

Blockbuster season begins in earnest this Memorial Day weekend

Just how much has the box office recovered so far? The film industry is about to start getting answers to that question as Paramount’s “A Quiet Place — Part II” and Disney’s “Cruella” will kick off the summer blockbuster season this Memorial Day weekend.

“Quiet Place II” is expected to be the No. 1 film, as it will be released exclusively in theaters while “Cruella” will be released both in theaters and on PVOD for Disney+ subscribers. But exactly how much the film will make is still very much up in the air as COVID-19 has thrown the usual barometers for pre-release buzz into question.

On one hand, the film will be getting a slightly wider release at 3,700 locations than the original “Quiet Place,” which opened to $50 million at 3,508 theaters in 2018. Fandango has also reported that presales for the sequel are double that seen by the ticketing site during the original run-up to the film’s release in March 2020, before the pandemic forced release date delays. Reviews have also been just as strong as the original, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 92%.

But while declining COVID-19 infection rates have led many states to lift theater capacity restrictions, about 20 states still have some form of capacity limit in place, according to the National Association of Theater Owners’ reopening website CinemaSafe.

How much this will constrain the opening weekend potential for “Quiet Place II” is unclear, which is a major reason why Paramount is projecting a four-day opening weekend of $36 million. Independent projections have been slightly higher at $40 million, though an opening as high as $50 million has not been ruled out.

“It’s going to be like hitting a moving target when it comes to box office projections this summer,” box office analyst Shawn Robbins said. “Ideally we will see numbers improve over time, but it’s hard trying to gauge a film’s pre-release buzz when you have to factor in individual comfort with returning to theaters and, in the case of some films, availability on streaming or PVOD.”

The good news for Paramount is that a lower-budget horror film like “Quiet Place II” is the perfect early test for the summer box office. The original “Quiet Place” was very profitable for the studio with $340 million grossed worldwide against a $17 million production budget, and the sequel reportedly has a similar production spend. While other Paramount tentpoles like “Top Gun: Maverick” have been pushed out of the summer to ensure that they get more favorable conditions to make back their blockbuster budgets, an opening in the mid-$30 million range will ensure that “Quiet Place II” clears a much lower break-even bar.

“Cruella” is a different story, with analysts who spoke to TheWrap projecting a four-day opening in the $20 million range as it opens at 3,800+ locations. Under normal circumstances, such a result would be ruled a definite flop for Disney. But the film’s PVOD availability on Disney+ will make gauging the film’s actual profitability difficult. The film will be sold through the streaming service’s “Premier Access” program for $30 similar to “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which has grossed $111 million theatrically worldwide while also hitting PVOD in March.

Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding expectations for these two films, one thing is clear: this will be the lowest-grossing Memorial Day weekend box office in more than 25 years. This holiday period has yielded overall totals of more than $175 million every year since the turn of the century, with 2019 Memorial Day weekend accumulating $230 million.

It would take exceedingly strong turnout to push four-day totals this weekend to even $100 million, as last weekend’s overall totals only hit $20 million from holdovers like “Spiral” and “Wrath of Man” that are expected to take another drop this weekend. For now, the best Hollywood can probably hope for is some sign of progress back to normal for the box office, but Memorial Day weekend will also likely give the industry a sense of how far it still has to go.

“A Quiet Place — Part II” follows the Abbott family as they continue to struggle to survive against deadly alien creatures with extremely powerful hearing but with a weakness to high-frequency noises. Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe return along with cast newcomers Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou. John Krasinski returns as writer-director.

“Cruella” stars Emma Stone as the “101 Dalmatians” villain Cruella De Vil in an origin story set amid the fashion scene and punk movement of 1970s London. Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser and Mark Strong also star in the film, which is directed by Craig Gillespie from a script by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara.