We are still a world away from pre-pandemic numbers, however, where $150+ million overall weekend grosses in May were the norm. For now the combination of capacity restrictions, closed theaters, and audience hesitancy will continue to blunt grosses, but having stars headline a sequel from Paramount and a prequel from Disney--along with a four-day holiday weekend--should help the box office get some of its groove back.
Of the two new wide releases, Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II is the only theatrical exclusive, and we expect it to take the top spot. Having AQP2 usher us out of the pandemic is fitting, as it premiered just a few weeks ahead of its planned March 20, 2020 release, only to become one of the first films to be delayed due to Covid-19. With its theatrical release coming 45 days before its streaming debut on Paramount+, it is arguably the biggest film to get an exclusive theatrical release since Tenet. A Quiet Place opened to $50.2 million in April 2018 and, under normal circumstances, we would have thought AQP2 would get a nice sequel bump, but right now even matching its predecessor would be a Herculean feat.
AQP2 does have a good shot at breaking the record held by Godzilla Vs. Kong as the top opener during the pandemic ($31.6 million, with a five day total of $48.1 million after its Wednesday opening). Excellent reviews (90% Tomatometer) show that this is no sophomore slump for the John Krasinski-directed series, and though it is only rolling out in select international markets, the global gross will get a boost from the sudden, last minute release in China, which after the U.S. was the first film’s highest grossing territory with $34.4 million.
Cruella is one of the few big summer movies whose release date was unaffected by Covid, with its May 28, 2021 opening in place set well before the pandemic began. Its release strategy, however, did as it debuts day-and-date theatrically on over 3,800 screens AND on Disney Plus Premium Access where subscribers can rent it for $30. The positive reviews (72% Tomatometer), which praise Emma Stone’s take on the title character, put it in the upper range of Disney’s live-action takes on its animated classics, though its box office may end up at the lower end of them.
Cruella’s pre-release IMDb page view counts are similar to those of Christopher Robin, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, and Dumbo, which opened to $24.5 million, $36.9 million, and $45.9 million respectively. Wherever Cruella lands, its true potential as a franchise restarter will be hard to determine from box office numbers alone, and it is not hard to imagine a non-pandemic opening where it performed closer to the original Maleficent’s late May opening of $69.4 million in 2014. Though the film is opening internationally, some countries will have to wait, most significantly China.
With no other new wide releases, Cruella and AQP2 should account for the bulk of the weekend gross, though there may be some small milestones crossed by the weekend’s distant runners-up. Wrath of Man will cross the $20 million threshold domestically, and with a strong hold Spiral could as well. Though the margins will be tight, Raya and the Last Dragon might just crawl past $50 million, making it only the third film to do so since the pandemic began.
A few limited releases are entering the arena as well. The Martin Scorsese produced Port Authority hits theaters via Momentum Pictures two years after its Cannes debut. Al Pacino stars in American Traitor: The Trial Of Axis Sally, courtesy of Vertical Entertainment. Singer Moby is put under the microscope in Moby Doc from Greenwich Entertainment. Lionsgate is releasing Endangered Species starring Rebecca Romijn, and Magnet has the reality-show themed horror film Funhouse.
F9 should have a victory lap abroad, continuing to rack up huge numbers in China as it awaits its June 25 release in the U.S. The other international box office story worth celebrating is the return of the U.K. box office, with grosses from its first weekend back inching towards where they were prior to the pandemic, despite capacity restrictions, with Peter Rabbit 2 nearly crossing $10 million in its first week. The global box office may not be back to normal, but it’s getting there, one weekend at a time.