Recent Blockbusters Show that Moral Content Attracts Larger Audiences
By Movieguide® Staff
Since box office numbers plummeted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, studios relied on streaming services and hybrid deals that saw blockbuster movies released simultaneously in theaters and online, losing profits in the process.
However, as audiences anticipate summer tentpoles and theaters lift pandemic-related restrictions in crucial markets—Los Angeles and New York City—the question remains, what will bring in the biggest audiences?
One of the first movies to test a theatrical release was Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller TENANT. Released in Sept. 2020, TENANT’s performance was lackluster, with a domestic opening shy of $10 million. TENET had a light humanist worldview with violent action scenes.
Fast forward to May 28, and John Krasinki’s sci-fi thriller A QUIET PLACE PART II earned nearly $50 million, posting the best ticket sales amid the pandemic. Uniquely, the QUIET PLACE sequel was the first exclusive theatrical release in 8 months.
The drastic difference in success is undoubtedly affected by the number of open theaters and the roll-out of the vaccine. However, another factor has proven to remain valid throughout the list of pandemic releases: morally uplifting movies that offer hope sit atop the box office.
Although TENET is not morally ambiguous, A QUIET PLACE PART II champions family, sacrifice, good conquering evil, and several other biblical themes.
With each new release, studios and exhibitors can better gauge audience interest in the theatrical experience. However, content plays a role as well.
One week after the success of A QUIET PLACE PART II came the horror movie, THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT.
The movie is the eighth in THE CONJURING franchise and made $24 million in its domestic opening. Unlike A QUIET PLACE PART II, Warner Bros. THE CONJURING will also be available on HBO Max.
Analysts noted that following up a strong performance a week earlier and its hybrid release strategy could account for its lower numbers.
“‘The Conjuring 8’s’ weekend would be stronger if it weren’t launching one week after ‘A Quiet Place 2’ and if it weren’t on TV, but in total this is […] another positive sign for the industry,” David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research said. “It’s very good to see.”
Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore, added: “In this new world of hybrid releases, it’s difficult to assess what constitutes a hit or solid debut. Streaming services aren’t giving out the number of views. It’s no longer a standard analysis.
“This summer is the test kitchen for the industry,” Dergarabedian continued. “It’s competitive for the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers. We’re going to have real-world examples of what each [studio’s] model can bring to the table.”
Although THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT contained more extreme content than A QUIET PLACE PART II, it did have strong Christian and biblical elements.
A portion of Movieguide®’s review reads:
THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT is an R-rated horror movie loosely based on a real but controversial 1981 case…
THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT is a scary but absorbing, suspenseful and well-produced thrill ride. The performances are excellent. The movie has a very strong Christian, moral worldview. There is prayer, including a recitation of the Lord’s prayer, and biblical citations. In addition, the love between the two Christian occult experts helps save the day. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution, however, because of scary, bloody violence, foul language, and occult content in THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT.
On the other hand, A QUIET PLACE PART II championed pro-family, pro-life, and biblical themes like sacrifice that likely drew on a broader audience.
A portion of Movieguide®’s review reads:
A QUIET PLACE PART II is the edge-of-your-seat sequel to the popular 2018 science fiction thriller…
A QUIET PLACE PART II is a visceral, gripping, ultimately uplifting thriller that never lets up. PART II isn’t a didactic movie. The movie conveys its themes and messages by the action instead of the dialogue. As such, the movie sends a pro-life message that promotes family, parenthood and risking your life to save others from deadly, desperate situations. A QUIET PLACE PART II does, however, contain some brief foul language, violence and many scary moments. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for older children and other sensitive viewers.
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