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Box Office Reality Falls Short of Hopes as ‘In the Heights’ and ‘Peter Rabbit 2’ Disappoint

"A Quiet Place Part II" returned to the top spot amid weak openers in the ongoing struggle for theaters to recover.

"In the Heights": “Carnaval del Barrio”

The “Carnaval del Barrio” number from “In the Heights”

Warner Bros.

Here’s a concise description of the reality of the state of moviegoing: In two consecutive weekends, Warner Bros. released two movies. One was the eighth entry in the “Conjuring” horror franchise. The other, an acclaimed musical film, celebrated as a breakthrough in representation of Latinos onscreen. Both concurrently showed at no extra cost on HBO Max for subscribers.

“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” grossed $24.1 million. “In the Heights” managed less than half, at just $11.4 million.

Jon M. Chu’s widely anticipated and critically adored film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Broadway musical failed to reach #1, falling $245,000 behind a strong third weekend for John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place Part II” (Paramount). The well-received sequel rose from #2 last week and dashed past the $100-million mark, the first film to do so in over a year.

Four films grossed over $10 million in a single weekend for the first time since February 2020. That should be good news. But that was most of the activity this weekend. All told, domestic theaters grossed around $58 million.

In our ongoing gauge of theater recovery, that is 43 percent of the same weekend two summers ago. Over the last three weeks, total business has ranged between 42 and 45 percent. It needs to get better, and soon.

Growth is needed, and more was expected with two significant openers and the second and third weeks of recent, strong #1 films. Previous weeks have counted more on the strength of the new releases. This week had four legitimate films in play. Only “Quiet Place” stands out.

“Heights” was not the sole disappointment. “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” (Sony) opened to $10.4 million. In a period when animated films (“Rabbit” is hybrid live-action/animation) have been a major backbone of recovery, this sequel to the 2018 franchise starter managed only 40 percent of the original’s opening. On a non-holiday February weekend, it did $25 million. It went on to an extraordinary $115 million — more than 4.5 times its start.

“Rabbit” has no home platform, consistent with Sony’s pattern. Does the recent spate of same day (“Tom & Jerry”) or soon after (“The Croods: A New Age”) availability hurt those who go a different direction? It’s unclear.

The film has already opened elsewhere. It was particularly impressive in the U.K./Ireland, where its first weekend gross was $26 million, 2.5 times the U.S. tally. It’s a mystery. Sony sold “The Millers vs. the Machines” to Netflix, where it has thrived. It’s hard not to look at the fate of these two films and not guess which was the smarter move. Except, perhaps, in taking a profit on “Millers,” Sony damaged themselves and theaters otherwise.

The postmortem on “Heights” is in full swing, with much of the blame going to its home availability. Of course it cut into some sales. Reports suggest Warners elevated its advertising heading into the release when it appeared interest was lagging. It’s doubtful that would have happened without the backup of gains for streaming. The push helped likely helped theaters as well.

The question of word of mouth is not as certain as many thought. The Saturday gross was 27-percent down from Friday. By comparison, the disastrous musical “Cats,” which opened lower in 2019 (pre-Christmas, and up against a “Star Wars” release), dropped 18 percent. “Rent,” considered disappointing in 2005, opened on a pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday and (adjusted) grossed $24 million for its first five days. Its Saturday — off a typically great Friday after the holiday — fell 11 percent.

There are layers to digest here, including the impact on the future of theatrical film. But the result just elevates the importance for “F9” (Universal) on June 25, and “Black Widow” (Disney) two weeks after. Even if they do as well as hoped, which feels likely, their success contrasted to results here will reinforce the limits on what is considered workable for release in theaters.

Regan (Millicent Simmonds) braves the unknown in "A Quiet Place Part II."

“A Quiet Place Part II”

Photo Credit: Jonny Cournoyer

While “Quiet Place” qualifies as a franchise film, there is nothing routine about how that sequel is doing. Through 17 days, it has done 82 percent of what the 2018 first film did. And that had a terrific hold. To do so well with the still-constricting factors hurting theaters is a strong counterbalance to the disappointment of the new releases.

“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (Warner Bros.) dropped 58 percent in week two, down to fourth place. Still, that’s a better hold than “Conjuring 2” had in 2016. With parallel HBO Max showings, “Devil” looks headed to $60 million.

“Cruella” (Disney) held well, off 39 percent. Playing with PVOD access on Disney+, it is now at $56 million. By itself, that’s not exceptional, but this could reach $75-80 million before adding in the unknown but likely lucrative additional home revenue.

Two unexpected independent titles reached the top 10. “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” (Hidden Empire Film) took $1,064,000 in 420 theaters. Mike Epps reprises his role from the original 2016 horror comedy. The sequel was filmed in late 2017, and only now seeing release (exclusively in theaters initially). Earlier, it had opened to $4 million in 1,015 theaters.

Parallel to its PVOD play, “Queen Bees” (Gravitas Ventures), with Ellen Burstyn as a newcomer to a seniors’ home that resembles “Mean Girls,” placed ninth with $328,000 in 500 theaters.

Also of note: “12 Mighty Orphans” (Sony Pictures Classics), a depression-era tale of a team of orphans competing in Texas high school football, opened respectfully initially in theaters in that state. It grossed $254,000 in 132 theaters. It opens nationally this Friday.

Sublet

“Sublet”

YouTube/screenshot

On the more limited specialized scene, the well reviewed gay-themed Israeli “Sublet” (Greenwich Entertainment) opened in 25 key arthouses around the country for a total gross of $16,300. The best gross for the theater-only film came from the Quad in Manhattan, where its $3,000 take puts it among the best of recent specialized (and seating-limited) openings.

The Top 10

1. A Quiet Place Part II (Paramount) Week 3; Last weekend #2

$11,650,000 (-40%) in 3,515 theaters (-229); PTA: $3,314; Cumulative: $108,990,000

2. In the Heights (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 85; Est. budget: $55 million; also on HBO Max

$11,405,000 in 3,456 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $3,330; Cumulative: $11,405,000

3. Peter Rabbit: The Runaway (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 44; Est. budget: $45 million

$10,400,000 in 3,346 theaters; PTA: $3,108; Cumulative: $10,400,000

4. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #1; also on HBO Max

$10,020,000 (-58%) in 3,257 theaters (+135); PTA: $3,095; Cumulative: $43,771,000

5. Cruella (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #3; also on Premium VOD/Disney+

$6,700,000 (-39%) in 3,307 theaters (-615); PTA: $2,026; Cumulative: $56,000,000

6. Spirit Untamed (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$2,500,000 (-59%) in 3,394 theaters (+183); PTA: $737; Cumulative: $10,900,000

7. The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 (Hidden Film) NEW

$1,064,000 in 420 theaters; PTA: $2,533; Cumulative: $1,064,000

8. The Wrath of Man (United Artists) Week 6; Last weekend #6; also on Premium VOD

$615,000 (-51%) in 1,207 theaters (-800); PTA: $510; Cumulative: $25,966,000

9. Queen Bees (Gravitas Ventures) NEW – Metacritic: 53; also on Premium VOD

$328,300 in 500 theaters; PTA: $657; Cumulative: $328,300

10. Spiral (Lionsgate) Week 5; Last weekend #7; also on Premium VOD   1983

$305,000 (-66%) in 1,572 theaters (); PTA: $; Cumulative: $22,609,000

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