New York — John Krasinski's A Quiet Place made a thunderous debut at the box office, opening with $50 million in ticket sales and rumbling to the year's second-best weekend after Black Panther, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The Paramount Pictures thriller far exceeded expectations to land one of the top opening weekends for a horror release. It marks an unlikely breakthrough for Krasinski, the former Office star many associate more with inter-office romance and deadpan expressions than silent cinematic frights. Krasinski's third directing effort, which stars himself and wife Emily Blunt is about a family in a future dystopia populated by violent creatures with extremely acute hearing.
But it was far from the only success story on the weekend, which also saw Universal's R-rated comedy Blockers open solidly with $21.4m, Steven Spielberg's virtual-reality adventure Ready Player One dip only 40 percent with $25.1m in its second weekend and the period docudrama Chappaquiddick beat expectations with a debut of $6.2m. In limited release, Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs, Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here and Andrew Haigh's Lean on Pete all did well, too.
For one weekend, at least, just about everything Hollywood could throw at moviegoers worked. The weekend was up 35.3 percent from last year.
But nothing approached the runaway success of A Quiet Place. Hollywood had forecast closer to $30m for the film, which cost just $17m to make. Yet A Quiet Place rode strong buzz from its SXSW premiere in March, good reviews (97 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and moviegoers' continuing thirst for horror.
"We always knew we had something special from the first screenings. But you don't get to a number like this without breaking free of the genre. I think this is about great storytelling," said Kyle Davies, head of domestic distribution for Paramount, who heaped praise on Krasinski. "We're looking forward to what else he has up his sleeve."
A Quiet Place is also a badly needed hit for Paramount, which has struggled mightily at the box office in recent years while its ownership has sometimes been in limbo. Earlier this week, CBS Corp. submitted a bid to acquire Viacom Inc., Paramount's parent company.
Though greenlit under the previous leadership, A Quiet Place is the first major success under Jim Gianopulos, who took over as studio head a year ago. The opening is Paramount's biggest since 2016's Star Trek Beyond and its best non-franchise opening since 2013's World War Z.
Blockers also heralds a filmmaking breakthrough aided by an enthusiastic response from SXSW audiences. The film, which cost about $21m to make, is the directorial debut of Kay Cannon, a writer whose credits include 30 Rock and Pitch Perfect. Blockers, starring Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz as parents trying to prevent their daughters from losing their virginity, shrugged off a recent slump for comedies in theaters.
"Kay Cannon knocked it out of the park," said Jim Orr, distribution head for Universal, who credited Cannon with inverting the "double standards" of the teen sex comedy. "We could not be more pleased."
Despite the competition, Warner Bros.' Ready Player One held well, bringing its domestic total to $96.9m. But it's fared even better overseas, where Spielberg's latest has already grossed $294.4m. It's done especially well in China, where the film has made $161.3m in two weeks.
Continuing ticket sales also pushed Ryan Coogler's Black Panther further into the record books. The Marvel blockbuster now ranks third all-time domestically with $665.4m, trailing only Avatar and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Over the weekend, Black Panther passed 1997's Titanic, which grossed $659.4m, though accounting for inflation would put it above $1bn.
John Curran's Chappaquiddick, about the 1969 Ted Kennedy scandal, opened with $6.2m in 1 560 theatres. The film, starring Jason Clarke as Kennedy, was acquired by Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios at last fall's Toronto International Film Festival. Originally planned for an awards season release, the move to spring seemed to give Chappaquiddick a better chance to stand out.
In its third weekend, Fox Searchlight's Isle of Dogs grossed $4.6m in 554 theatres. LD Entertainment's The Miracle Season, about an inspirational season for a girls' high-school volleyball team, opened with $4.1m.
With one of the best per-theatre performances of the year, Amazon's You Were Never Really Here, starring Joaquin Phoenix, opened with $129 911 in three theatres. A24's Lean on Pete, with Charlie Plummer, debuted with $50 118 on four screens.
"Everyone kind of won this weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "This is the kind of weekend that Hollywood should try to recreate over and over again. The diversity of the line-up and the originality of the films drove huge numbers of moviegoers to the multiplex."