Cruella was a movie nobody asked for and nobody saw.
Memorial Day weekend saw one of the box office’s best performances since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with A Quiet Place Part II and Disney’s Cruella earning the number one and number two spots, respectively. The two films represent two different release approaches as theaters start the journey back to pre-COVID normalcy, and despite its PG-13 rating, A Quiet Place 2 has come out as the clear winner. That victory is due to a number of factors, including the series’ respected pedigree and Cruella’s theatrical/streaming hybrid release.
Like many such businesses, movie theaters have struggled immensely in the COVID era. Safety concerns, occupancy restrictions, and shutdowns in major metropolitan areas have cut down ticket sales by orders of magnitude. In response, many studios have delayed release dates, sent movies directly to streaming platforms, or adopted a streaming/theatrical hybrid release model to maximize public exposure. While these methods have mitigated some of the financial damage on the studio side, they’ve also exacerbated the box office’s severe drop-off.
As more and more American adults have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and restrictions begin to lift, cinemas have started on a long-awaited road toward pre-pandemic normalcy. That future was glimpsed over the Memorial Day weekend in a strong theatrical showing led by A Quiet Place 2 and Cruella. However, while both films did well, A Quiet Place dominated at the number one spot. Here’s why.
A Quiet Place 2 smashed all previous pandemic-era box office debut records by breaking $47 million gross in the traditional three-day timeframe and an estimated $57 million across all four days of the extended weekend. That trounces Godzilla vs. Kong, which previously held the COVID opening weekend gold medal with $48.5 million grossed over its first five days in theaters. The most shocking thing about A Quiet Place’s haul, however, and the reason many are looking at it as a promising signal of theaters returning to normal, is that the film’s gross so far is nearly the same as its projected pre-pandemic box office take. In other words, A Quiet Place Part II is doing about as well as it was supposed to have done before the pandemic struck.
While not hitting the same kinds of numbers as A Quiet Place, Cruella also had a strong weekend in the number two spot. The 101 Dalmatians prequel grossed close to $22 million over its first three days and a projected $27 million over the whole four-day span. That’s a far cry short of what Disney’s big-budget summer blockbusters take home in normal conditions, but it’s an encouraging performance given the current global circumstances. Still, it falls short of A Quiet Place’s record-smashing weekend, and understandably so.