By now, it should not be news that horror pictures are one of the few reliable bets at the box office these days. It’s one of those things you can count on like death, taxes, and Marvel movies. And while we’re used to hearing superlatives like “best opening ever!” and “highest second weekend of all time for a movie featuring six cats!” the John Krasinski–Emily Blunt monster movie A Quiet Place has secured an opening that’s just as exciting for studios as it is for genre fans. By bringing in $50 million domestically, A Quiet Place shot past box-office estimates by an insane $20 million, and notched the biggest opening weekend ever for an original horror story, which was also good enough to make it the third-highest horror opening of all time behind last year’s It and Paranormal Activity 3 from 2011.
So what does this mean? For starters, it means Quiet Place will almost assuredly become the year’s first $100 million earner in the genre, working off a production budget of just $17 million. To put that number in context, consider the theatrical performance of similar movies such as the claustrophobic thriller Don’t Breathe from 2016, which also played the absence of sound for nerve-jangling effect. That movie opened with $26 million, and went on to make a little more than triple that amount with $89 million. Or 10 Cloverfield Lane, another movie cut from similar cloth, which opened to $24 million, and almost tripled its debut figure by taking in $72 million total. (Another movie listed as similar to Place on Box Office Mojo is 2016’s Lights Out, which also tripled its opening weekend take with its total domestic gross.) What A Quiet Place has in its favor that those other very good movies don’t, however, is a nearly 100 percent aggregate critical rating and the star appeal of John Krasinksi and Emily Blunt, who’ve taken their husband-wife act on the road for a charming press tour. Taking all those variables into account, add in the fact that Quiet Place has a somewhat family friendly PG-13 rating, and the movie stands to coast toward something like $150 million in the U.S. alone.
And why does this matter? Well, last year marked the the first time ever that multiple horror films passed the nine-digit mark domestically — and there were four of them. That set an extremely high bar for 2018, and even though New Line’s It was an extreme outlier with its $327 million domestic haul, a dip in earnings still threatens to make horror’s biggest year ever look like an anomaly instead of bellwether of the genre’s upward mobility. Thanks especially to It, 2018 will likely not match horror’s box-office performance in 2017. Of the rest of this year’s horror releases, Suspiria, Halloween, and The Conjuring spinoff The Nun stand the best chance of bringing in big money. But then again, no one really saw A Quiet Place coming until a few weeks ago, and just like in horror, much of the fun of box-office watching comes in the surprises.
Additionally, that A Quiet Place was this year’s first genre entry to get on the path to $100 million means the right scary stories are continuing to permeate the culture. It’s worth noting, too, that Paramount has been thirsting for a hit after a string of very expensive flops last year, and the company has generally struggled to open movies not called Mission Impossible or Star Trek. If fans keep voting with their dollars to put original ideas like A Quiet Place on top at the box office — as they did with Split and Get Out in 2017 — there’s a good chance that, in addition to probably getting A Quieter Place in 2019, Paramount and other studios will continue to feel more and more emboldened to take chances on low-risk, high-reward genre projects.