LOS ANGELES (NYTimes) - A desperately needed turnaround may be starting to take hold at Paramount Pictures, which found its first hit in two years over the weekend by making a wild bet on a nearly dialogue-free horror movie.
A Quiet Place, which received rapturous reviews, sold an estimated US$50 million (S$66 million) in tickets at theatres in the United States and Canada, or twice as much as box office analysts had projected, resulting in No. 1 bragging rights.
The PG-13 film, which cost US$17 million to make, not including marketing, stars the married-in-real-life John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as a couple trying to evade creatures who respond to the slightest noise.
The horror genre, once a Hollywood backwater, has become an artistic hotbed - a corner of the mainstream movie business where film-makers have been able to take risks with original concepts, largely because they cost so little compared to the "tent pole" fantasies studios now obsess over.
And ticket buyers, especially teenagers and young adults - the hardest groups to pry away from their Netflix accounts - have been responding, making hits out of Get Out, It, Don't Breathe, The Witch and The Visit.
"It's about the story," said Mr Kyle Davies, Paramount's president of domestic distribution, adding that horror movies are fun to watch in theatres. "That communal experience can't be replicated at home."
Paramount has struggled with one misfire after another, including Sherlock Gnomes, Suburbicon and Baywatch.
Krasinski, whose two previous efforts as a director flopped in theatres, this time pushed Steven Spielberg into second place at the weekend box office derby.
Spielberg's Ready Player One took in about US$25.1 million for a sturdy two-week domestic total of US$96.9 million, according to comScore, which compiles box office data.
Third place went to Blockers, a raunchy sex comedy. It sold about US$21.4 million in tickets, on par with analyst expectations and delivering the best opening for an R-rated comedy since Girls Trip arrived to US$31.2 million last summer.