In a year where Hollywood was figuring out the best way to release blockbusters in the middle of a pandemic, Paramount chose mostly to wait and see if things will calm down in 2022.
Since theaters reopened last spring, Paramount has only released four films in theaters — earning a domestic gross of $278 million, according to data from The Numbers. That ranks sixth among all studios, below the other four major distributors and the $325 million grossed by MGM/United Artists — thanks to the James Bond blockbuster “No Time to Die.” (This article will be updated with numbers from Comscore once end-of-year data is published.)
Of that domestic total, 57% came from Paramount’s one major tentpole release, “A Quiet Place — Part II,” which opened on Memorial Day and grossed $160 million in North America. Despite lingering capacity restrictions for theaters in late May, the sequel nearly matched the $188 million total of the John Krasinski’s original “A Quiet Place” in 2018, showing how moviegoers still value watching horror films with others in a theater.
But amid the ups and downs of COVID infection rates and with other studios jostling for the best release date slots in the fall, Paramount decided to move its biggest 2021 tentpole, “Top Gun: Maverick,” to Memorial Day 2022. Other films moved as well, like the MTV revival “Jackass Forever” from October 2021 to February 2022.
Paramount domestic distribution head Chris Aronson and international distribution head Mark Viane defended the “Maverick” move, suggestingthe biggest factor was that leading man Tom Cruise might be unable to launch a worldwide press tour with COVID running rampant. “Launching ‘Top Gun’ requires a deep publicity drive that works on a global basis,” Aronson said. “Delta was wreaking havoc in certain territories. We wanted the global marketplace to be as whole as possible, which made the decision to move difficult, but we’re now full speed ahead next May.”
Viane added, “We were looking at the situation with the Delta variant, and as we consulted our medical team and looked at every single market, we decided back then there was no way to maximize full potential for a movie like ‘Maverick’ in the fall period. Looking back on it, it was definitely the right decision. Looking at 2022, especially in May, we believe the world will be in a more normalized state than it is now.”
The one other notable move for Paramount was throwing its hat into the day-and-date family film trend, releasing “Paw Patrol: The Movie” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog” in theaters and on parent company ViacomCBS’ streaming service, Paramount+.
Both films aimed at families with preschool-age kids, giving Paramount even more reason to believe, like other studios, that a hybrid release would allow them to sell the film to parents not yet comfortable with taking their kids to theaters. Combined, “Clifford” and “Paw Patrol” grossed a decent $92 million domestic and $156 million worldwide, with Paramount also reporting one million new Paramount+ subscribers in the week that “Clifford” launched on the streamer.
The studio’s only other wide release, the “G.I. Joe” spinoff “Snake Eyes,” was a theatrical exclusive that flopped in a major way in December — earning just $28.3 million domestically (and $11.8 million overseas).
Forecast for 2022
Paramount heads into the new year with brand new leadership, as Brian Robbins has taken over as president/CEO of the studio from Jim Gianopulos, while Daria Cercek and Michael Ireland serve as co-presidents of the studio’s motion picture group.
The new brass’ first full year in charge will offer plenty of tentpole chances and targeted demo success. Along with “Top Gun: Maverick,” Tom Cruise will be a big part of the studio’s box office hopes with “Mission: Impossible 7,” a blockbuster filmed largely during the pandemic and set for release on September 30.
Other major releases for the studio include “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” the debut of Paramount’s new animated division with the jukebox musical “Under the Boardwalk” and the return of “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle with “Babylon,” a period drama starring Brad Pitt. The studio will also release a biopic based on the Bee Gees directed by “Belfast” filmmaker Kenneth Branagh.
In all, Paramount plans to release 10 films in theaters in 2022. While the perils of the pandemic led the studio to sell off films like “Coming 2 America” and “Trial of the Chicago 7” to streamers in 2020, Aronson said he’s optimistic that both his studio and the box office as a whole will rebound this year, even if COVID variants raise some hurdles.
“If you look at the polls that were being taken of moviegoing confidence, it was at 75% for many months in 2021,” Aronson said. “Until we get that number close to 90%, we’ll see a suppressed marketplace […] We’re in a period of adaptation and I hope that the exhibition side of the theatrical industry is able to adapt as well. I’m hopeful they’re going to continue to do everything in their power to make movie going attractive to the 25% missing and get those moviegoers to come back and watch movies in theaters.”
TheWrap’s 2021 Studio Box Office Report Cards
Monday:How Warner Bros.’ HBO Max Experiment Led to Mixed Box Office Results
Tuesday: Universal Mined Sequels and Flexibility on Streaming to Survive at 2021 Box Office
Wednesday: Inside Paramount’s Quiet Place at the Box Office, Sidelined for a Brighter 2022
Thursday: Sony Pictures