Paramount Pictures’ “A Quiet Place” broke the mold of the traditional horror movie and found a top spot among the blockbusters of 2018 thanks to unique marketing and the power of its star husband-and-wife duo.
The film, which marked the directorial debut for John Krasinski, who stars in the film alongside his real-life wife Emily Blunt, raked in $50 million domestically in its opening weekend on April 6. That’s the biggest opening weekend ever for an original horror story and the third-ever for a horror film opening, trekking slightly behind 2017’s “It” and “Paranormal Activity 3” in 2011.
But what led to this outsized box office success? According to the box office receipts, the movie attracted a wider audience than horror movies of years past, according to Movio, a leading movie data, analytics, and marketing company. It had a growing appeal among women and audience members age 50+. That trend was supported by a marketing plan that was designed to highlight the film’s multi-quadrant appeal.
From early on in the development of the marketing plan, “we were trying to figure out what moves can we make that widen the gate and let a broader audience in. This is a film that transcends that age 13-34 female-skewing horror audience,” explains Brice Tidwell, VP of brand strategy at Paramount Pictures. “The film took off and had these incredible legs, largely driven by the older audiences that show up the second and third weekend.”
To learn from the film’s success, we asked the data scientists at Movio to compare weekly attendance patterns and demographic data such as age, gender, and ethnicity of ticket-buyers. As well, we delve a bit deeper into the creative marketing strategy behind the campaign.
The importance of older, female fans
In order to put the box office returns of “A Quiet Place” in context, the analysts at Movio compared it to the audience profiles of modern horror and psychological horror sub-genre films1, as well as “It.” (As the highest grossing horror movie with $330 million in domestic box office, “It” is a strong a comparative model for a genre film that attracts a wide audience.)
Overall, the average age of the audience of “A Quiet Place” was 34.8—slightly younger than psychological horror movies and much older than blockbuster horror and modern horror audiences, the majority of whom tend to be between 14 and 30 years old. But the noticeable difference in the attendance was in the 50+ age group.
‘A Quiet Place’ Growth Among Audiences Age 50+
The film’s older audience grew 37% throughout its theater run.
According to Movio’s analysis, 20% of the movie’s total audience was over age 50. And, the age group’s attendance increased by 37% from opening weekend through its final week—which is the most significant growth rate in this demographic group of all the movies Movio considered.
The movie’s success was also due to the fact that it attracted female moviegoers. By the end of the film’s run, the audience was almost 49% female, a growth of 20% since opening night. Because of that near-parity among male and female audience members, the trend across gender lines is very similar to a blockbuster film.
Female Viewers Led to a Blockbuster-Like Pattern
Nearly half of the film’s audience was female.
Lastly, in order for a movie to truly break-out and be successful, it needs to attract moviegoers who go to the movies fewer than 12 times a year. Movio categorizes these into infrequent (1 to 4 movies/year) and occasional (4 to 12 movies/year) moviegoers. In that context, “A Quiet Place” appealed mostly to frequent moviegoers.
Attracting Fewer of the Most Selective Moviegoers
Films that attract more infrequent moviegoers tend to earn more at the box office.
Teasing vs. divulging: The creative marketing strategy
In addition to the film’s wide-ranging audience appeal, the marketing approach was somewhat atypical for a horror film. For example, following the film’s premiere at SXSW, the trailer debuted on Ellen DeGeneres’ afternoon talk show and Blunt and Krasinski did a tour of early morning and late night talk shows. These outlets attract a demo that’s a bit outside of the target audience of a typical horror film—but one that’s perfect for a film infused with the tensions and fears involved in parenting.
As well, the trailer itself was creatively and purposefully mysterious. “We said from early on: ‘Let’s not show what this monster looks like.’ That becomes the price of admission. It’s basic teasing vs. divulging—what we have to give you in order to get you to go to the movie,” Tidwell explains. “The big thing that people really discovered is the depth of the performances, and of the characters.”
“We said from early on: ‘Let’s not show what this monster looks like.’ That becomes the price of admission.”
Paramount also used the tagline of the movie, “if they hear you, they hunt you,” to create a custom spot for movie theaters in which noisy moviegoers were attacked by the film’s monster.
To amp up the “quiet” concept on social media, a Twitter emoji was launched for the hashtags #AQuietPlace and #StayQuiet and custom Snapchat filters and codes helped to reach college students across the United States.
The movie had the approval of critics following its SXSW debut, but its far-reaching success surprised even pop-culture pundits. “No one really saw ‘A Quiet Place’ coming… and just like in horror, much of the fun of box-office watching comes in the surprises,” said a Vulture story following the film’s opening weekend.
As “A Quiet Place” moves through the DVD and streaming markets, its domestic box office total of $187 million puts it in seventh place for 2018’s box office rankings, behind the more predictable blockbusters like “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” A sequel is scheduled to hit theaters on May 15, 2020.
1. Modern horror films used for analysis were the following five recent films: “The First Purge,” “The Purge: Election Year,” “Don’t Breathe,” “The Conjuring 2,” “The Strangers: Prey at Night.” Psychological horror films used for analysis were the following five recent films: “Get Out, Split,” “10 Cloverfield Lane,” “Hereditary,” “Alien: Covenant.”