LOS ANGELES • Paramount Pictures 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, earned No. 1 bragging rights with an estimated US$50 million (S$65.7 million) in tickets in North America, or twice as much as box-office analysts had projected.
The PG13 film, which cost US$17 million to make, stars the married-in-real-life John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as a couple trying to evade creatures who respond to the slightest noise.
Once a Hollywood backwater, the horror genre 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 with the "tent pole" fantasies studios now obsess over.
And ticket buyers, especially teens and young adults - the hardest groups to prise away from their Netflix accounts - have been making hits out of Get Out, It, Don't Breathe, The Witch and The Visit.
Kyle Davies, Paramount's president of domestic distribution, says horror movies are fun to watch in theatres. "That communal experience can't be replicated at home."
A Quiet Place was directed by Krasinski and produced by a team that included Michael Bay, known for his deafening Transformers movies (2007 to present).
Paramount has struggled with misfires, including Suburbicon (2017) and Baywatch (2017). It ranks last among Hollywood's major studios in domestic market share.
Paramount marketeers put together a clever campaign that broadened A Quiet Place's appeal. Besides screenings and stunts at the South by Southwest Film Festival, advertisements ran in theatres featuring noisy moviegoers who are attacked.
Krasinski, whose two previous efforts as a director flopped in theatres, this time pushed Steven Spielberg into second place at the weekend box office. Spielberg's Ready Player One (Warner Bros) took in about US$25.1 million for a worldwide total of US$391.3 million. Ticket sales in China have been particularly strong.
Third place went to Blockers (Universal), a sex comedy directed by Kay Cannon. It sold about US$21.4 million in tickets, delivering the best opening for an R-rated comedy since Girls Trip (US$31.2 million) last summer.