NEW YORK - John Krasinski's "A Quiet Place" made a thunderous debut at the box office, opening with $50 million in ticket sales and rumbling to the year's second-best weekend after "Black Panther," according to studio estimates Sunday.
The Paramount Pictures thriller far exceeded expectations to land one of the top opening weekends for a horror release. It marks an unlikely breakthrough for Krasinski, the former "Office" star many associate more with inter-office romance and deadpan expressions than silent cinematic frights. Krasinski's third directing effort, which stars himself and wife Emily Blunt is about a family in a future dystopia populated by violent creatures with extremely acute hearing.
But it was far from the only success story on the weekend, which also saw Universal's R-rated comedy "Blockers" open solidly with $21.4 million, Steven Spielberg's virtual-reality adventure "Ready Player One" dip only 40 per cent with $25.1 million in its second weekend and the period docudrama "Chappaquiddick" beat expectations with a debut of $6.2 million. In limited release, Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs," Lynne Ramsay's "You Were Never Really Here" and Andrew Haigh's "Lean on Pete" all did well, too.
For one weekend, at least, just about everything Hollywood could throw at moviegoers worked. The weekend was up 35.3 per cent from last year.
But nothing approached the runaway success of "A Quiet Place." Hollywood had forecast closer to $30 million for the film, which cost just $17 million to make. Yet "A Quiet Place" rode strong buzz from its SXSW premiere in March, good reviews (97 per cent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and moviegoers' continuing thirst for horror.
"We always knew we had something special from the first screenings. But you don't get to a number like this without breaking free of the genre. I think this is about great storytelling," said Kyle Davies, head of domestic distribution for Paramount, who heaped praise on Krasinski. "We're looking forward to what else he has up his sleeve."
"A Quiet Place" is also a badly needed hit for Paramount, which has struggled mightily at the box office in recent years while its ownership has sometimes been in limbo. Earlier this week, CBS Corp. submitted a bid to acquire Viacom Inc., Paramount's parent company.
Though greenlit under the previous leadership, "A Quiet Place" is the first major success under Jim Gianopulos, who took over as studio head a year ago. The opening is Paramount's biggest since 2016's "Star Trek Beyond" and its best non-franchise opening since 2013's "World War Z."
"Blockers" also heralds a filmmaking breakthrough aided by an enthusiastic response from SXSW audiences. The film, which cost about $21 million to make, is the directorial debut of Kay Cannon, a writer whose credits include "30 Rock" and "Pitch Perfect." ''Blockers," starring Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz as parents trying to prevent their daughters from losing their virginity, shrugged off a recent slump for comedies in theatres.
"Kay Cannon knocked it out of the park," said Jim Orr, distribution head for Universal, who credited Cannon with inverting the "double standards" of the teen sex comedy. "We could not be more pleased."
Despite the competition, Warner Bros.' "Ready Player One" held well, bringing its domestic total to $96.9 million. But it's fared even better overseas, where Spielberg's latest has already grossed $294.4 million. It's done especially well in China, where the film has made $161.3 million in two weeks.
Continuing ticket sales also pushed Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther" further into the record books. The Marvel blockbuster now ranks third all-time domestically with $665.4 million, trailing only "Avatar" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Over the weekend, "Black Panther" passed 1997's "Titanic," which grossed $659.4 million, though accounting for inflation would put it above $1 billion.
John Curran's "Chappaquiddick," about the 1969 Ted Kennedy scandal, opened with $6.2 million in 1,560 theatres. The film, starring Jason Clarke as Kennedy, was acquired by Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios at last fall's Toronto International Film Festival. Originally planned for an awards season release, the move to spring seemed to give "Chappaquiddick" a better chance to stand out.
In its third weekend, Fox Searchlight's "Isle of Dogs" grossed $4.6 million in 554 theatres. LD Entertainment's "The Miracle Season," about an inspirational season for a girls' high-school volleyball team, opened with $4.1 million.
With one of the best per-theatre performances of the year, Amazon's "You Were Never Really Here," starring Joaquin Phoenix, opened with $129,911 in three theatres. A24's "Lean on Pete," with Charlie Plummer, debuted with $50,118 on four screens.
"Everyone kind of won this weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "This is the kind of weekend that Hollywood should try to recreate over and over again. The diversity of the lineup and the originality of the films drove huge numbers of moviegoers to the multiplex."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers also are included. Final three-day domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "A Quiet Place," $50 million ($21 million international).
2. "Ready Player One," $25.1 million ($81.7 million international).
3. "Blockers," $21.4 million ($3.2 million international).
4. "Black Panther," $8.4 million ($4.5 million international).
5. "I Can Only Imagine," $8.4 million.
6. "Tyler Perry's Acrimony," $8.1 million.
7. "Chappaquiddick," $6.2 million.
8. "Sherlock Gnomes," $5.6 million ($2.7 million international).
9. "Pacific Rim Uprising," $4.9 million ($12.4 million international).
10. "Isle of Dogs," $4.6 million ($1.1 million international).
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theatres (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:
1. "Ready Player One," $81.7 million.
2. "A Quiet Place," $21 million.
3. "Peter Rabbit," $19.2 million.
4. "Pacific Rim Uprising," $12.4 million.
5. "Hindi Medium," $11.7 million.
6. "Tomb Raider," $4.9 million.
7. "Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum," $4.9 million.
8. "What a Man Wants," $4.7 million.
9. "Baaghi 2," $4.6 million.
10. "Black Panther," $4.5 million.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of John Krasinski's last name in three references.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP