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How ‘A Quiet Place’ Roared at the Domestic Box Office

Dodging the familiar isn't as risky as people think: just look at the numbers.

Left to right: Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds in A QUIET PLACE, from Paramount Pictures.

“A Quiet Place”

Jonny Cournoyer

Last weekend “A Quiet Place” (Paramount) accomplished a rare box office feat: it exceeded all projections. And its strong word of mouth could catapult John Krasinski’s $20-million horror sleeper to a mighty domestic total of $125 million or higher.

So far an otherwise lackluster 2018 has been dominated by Disney/Marvel’s “Black Panther,” the biggest film ever released in a year’s first quarter. By this point in 2017 five new releases had grossed over $150 million, compared to only “Panther” so far in 2018. Right now only “Ready Player One” looks to reach that level.

Something significant is going on. A new trend could cause a major shift in studio production– and give North American theaters a needed boost.

Despite the laser focus on the franchise and sequel films that dominate production slates, in the past few decades many lower-budget films (under $40 million) have managed to gross over $100 million domestic.

“Hidden Figures”

But things picked up in January 2017 when two late 2016 platform releases, $25-million “Hidden Figures” and $30-million “La La Land” ($30 million), went wide with Oscar-nomination boosts. Both scored over $150 million.

Also in early 2017, two Blumhouse thrillers with budgets under $10-million, “Split” and “Get Out,” sped past $100 million. Later in the year, “Baby Driver,” “Girls Trip,” “Wonder,” and horror films “Annabelle: Creation” and “It” also scored big at the box office.

“A Quiet Place” is the first in 2018 to be headed that way. This $50 million start beats all of last year’s crop except for Stephen King blockbuster “It” (which opened to $123 million). We could see more to come.

"It"

“It”

Brooke Palmer

Low-Budget Hits             Budget          Domestic Gross

 

“La La Land” $30 million $151 million
“Hidden Figures” $23 million $170 million
“Split” $ 9 million $138 million
“Get Out” $ 5 million $176 million
“Baby Driver” $34 million $108 million
“Annabelle: Creation” $15 million $102 million
“Girls Trip” $19 million $115 million
“It” $35 million $327 million
“Wonder” $20 million $132 million
“A Quiet Place” $17 million $125 million (projected)

Think Original

Distinguishing this list: all but one of the ten titles is a non-franchise/non-sequel. And they all landed strong reviews. Although they fit within conventional genres like horror, each had identifiable original elements that enhanced their appeal.

Mainly, their lower budgets allowed their creators to shape elements that had appeal to core domestic audiences. The latest annual Motion Picture Association of America survey of domestic moviegoing trends says that among 2017 ticket buyers, 51 percent identify 51 as white, 21 percent as African American, 14 percent Latino, 14 per ent Asian/other. That makes the core audience more diverse than the country as a whole. And within that diversity can be a key to unexpected success.

Increasingly, what appeals to the world doesn’t necessarily appeal stateside. Check out a parallel list of ten films that in the same period had budgets of over $100 million yet failed to gross that much domestically. They are the inverse of the list of their lower-budget counterparts above, with budgets substantially higher than their domestic takes.

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS Photo courtesy of STX Films and Europacorp

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

STX Films/Europacorp

Big-Budget 2017 Films     Budget          Domestic Gross

“Blade Runner 2049” $150 million $92 million
“Power Rangers” $100 million $85 million
“Ferdinand” $111 million $84 million
“The Mummy” $125 million $80 million
“The Great Wall” $150 million $46 million
“Valerian and … Planets” $177 million $41 million
“Ghost in a Shell” $110 million $41 million
“King Arthur” $175 million $39 million
“A Wrinkle in Time” $110 million $98 million (projected)
Pacific Rim: Uprising $150 million $62 million (projected)

 

Some of these titles went on to overall financial success because of foreign and other revenues. But all had disappointing domestic takes.

It was the success of the lower-budgeted films and their $1.5 billion-plus gross that kept 2017 domestic ticket sales from falling more than five percent. Sure, the overall take was dominated by familiar franchise titles in the “Star Wars” and Marvel series as well as mainstream smashes like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” But the response to less touted titles saved the year.

That’s critical at a time when international one-size-fits-all big-budget efforts often fall short. Many misfires of dubious worth failed to succeed.

But the lower-key domestic hits succeeded with fewer supposedly surefire elements and an easier path to profit. Countless Hollywood creatives are dying to show what they can do with their original ideas.  As “A Quiet Place” shows, low-budget risks often yield great rewards.

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