Emma Stone stars in Disney’s “Cruella.”
This Memorial Day weekend could have the right combination of new movie releases, number of cinemas open and increased consumer confidence to break the $100 million mark at the box office.
Since the pandemic began, theaters have struggled to lure back moviegoers, even with enticing titles such as “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Wonder Woman 1984.”
The weekend of April 23 has the highest-grossing weekend box-office tally since the pandemic locked down theaters last spring. Ticket sales reached $57 million, with only around 60% of movie theaters open, according to data from Comscore. The weekend’s top earners were “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train” and “Mortal Kombat.”
Heading into this Memorial Day weekend, more than 70% of theaters are open and Hollywood has two blockbuster releases: “Cruella” and “A Quiet Place Part II.”
The last time the box office topped $100 million over the weekend was March 6, 2020. In non-pandemic times, Memorial Day weekend has averaged around $200 million in ticket sales.
Memorial Day weekend in 2020 shrank to just $842,000 in ticket sales, driven almost entirely by drive-in movie theaters.
“What a difference a year makes as we now look toward what will be a pivotal Memorial weekend for movie theaters and, thankfully, the start of a true summer movie season, something the industry hasn’t seen in two years,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
While “Cruella” will have a dual release in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere Access, “A Quiet Place Part II” will be available only in theaters. The sequel has been widely praised by critics and been earmarked as a must-see film, especially in theaters. In reviews, critics touted how seeing the film in a theater heightened the experience because sounds — whether on the screen or in the seats nearby — made the thriller more suspenseful.
With more theaters open and the pent-up demand, Dergarabedian foresees a chance that Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II” could usurp “Godzilla vs. Kong” for the highest opening weekend debut since the health crisis started. “Godzilla vs. Kong” opened with a $32 million haul during the first weekend in April. At that time only 55% of theaters were open in North America.
The fate of Disney’s “Cruella” is a little less certain because it will be available in theaters and through Disney+ for $30 on the same day. Some consumers may venture out to the cinema to see the film, but others may choose to stay on the couch and stream. Plus, the film is getting mixed reviews.
“The performance of the two new films will serve as a bellwether of consumer confidence and enthusiasm for the movie theater experience,” said Dergarabedian. “[They will] also help to bolster the perception of the movie theater experience as more viable and essential than ever before and not as some had erroneously predicted a pre-ordained casualty of the pandemic.”
If Thursday’s previews are any indicator, both films could be heading toward strong openings. “A Quiet Place Part II” garnered $4.8 million in ticket sales, while “Cruella” nabbed $1.4 million. With Memorial Day weekend’s weather shaping up to be cloudy and dismal for most of the country, movie theaters could see a surge in attendance from folks looking to get out of the house.