Opinion

A Quiet Place Part II could be the big return Hollywood has been waiting for

The long-awaited thriller is poised for post-COVID box office success

It took a few months of a pandemic for the billboards advertising A Quiet Place Part II to start to become kind of funny. "I live near a Quiet Place 2 billboard," writer Carey O'Donnell tweeted on July 18. That was it, that was the joke (it got 613 likes). 

Now, after five different release dates (from its original, deeply unfortunate March 20, 2020 premiere date, back to Sept. 6, 2020, back to April 23, 2021, back to Sept. 17, 2021, then up to May 28, 2021), A Quiet Place Part II is actually coming out — which is as good a symbol as any that the COVID-19 pandemic is ending in America. But how will this unintentional canary-in-the-coal-mine for the movie industry actually fare over Memorial Day weekend, after over a year of rescheduling?

Having exhausted its original marketing budget back in March 2020, Part II could have an uphill battle to convince people to go to the movies this weekend. After all, potential audiences have been hearing about this film supposedly being just around the corner for over a year, which isn't necessarily productive for drumming up enthusiasm. "The trick is keeping [a movie] in the back of people's minds instead of the forefront, which is not something movie marketers are used to doing," a studio marketing expert explained to Vanity Fair

That said, A Quiet Place Part II does have all the makings of a post-pandemic hit. It's a made-for-theater movie; the use of silence in the franchise (where the monsters are attracted by sound) makes for a giddily nerve-wracking experience in a crowd. It's also being released exclusively in theaters, which isn't necessarily a given post-pandemicPart II's main box office rival, Cruella, for example, is being simultaneously released on Disney+ (A Quiet Place Part II will go to Paramount+ after a narrowed theatrical exclusivity window of 45 days).

A Quiet Place Part II likewise has hype on its side. The film has a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes so far, with The Guardian raving, "What a pleasure to see a big, brash picture like this on the big screen." Presales have reflected the excitement: Fandango reports the sequel is selling "twice as many advance tickets … compared to the same point in its 2020 sales cycle" and is "tracking ahead of the original film, which debuted to $50 million in 2018," according to Variety. The publication further estimates the film could potentially make $40 million to $50 million over Memorial Day weekend, which means it would beat Godzilla vs. Kong's $32 million as the biggest opening since last March.

Admittedly, the success of A Quiet Place Part II might not be as complicated a question as oversaturation vs. positive reviews. Simply, it still might be too early for audiences to want to head back to an enclosed space with a lot of other people. In the Heights, a more family-friendly release scheduled to come out in mid-June, could instead end up being the film that heralds the long-awaited "return of the movies" — not this horror sequel, where you can hear the mastication and breathing of strangers the whole time, setting off your COVID-19 paranoia anew.

Then again, those billboards have been up for a while. How can you resist finding out for yourself if it's all been worth the wait?

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