Inside the surprise success of 'A Quiet Place' --  from a worrisome test screening to a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score

Paramount‘A Quiet Place.’
  • “A Quiet Place” is now a box-office hit, which isn’t just a surprise for most in Hollywood, but also for those who made it.
  • The production company behind the movie, Platinum Dunes, told Business Insider about the test screening that left its audience confused, and the anxiety of showing the finished movie for the first time.

Warning: Mild spoiler below if you haven’t seen “A Quiet Place”

This weekend Paramount’s new horror movie, “A Quiet Place,” about a family forced to live in silence to hide from monsters that kill anything that makes a sound, won the weekend box office after earning an impressive $US50 million domestically – exceeding all industry projections.

Made for $US17 million, the third (and by far most successful) directing effort by actor John Krasinski snuck up on everyone in Hollywood to become the latest hit horror movie. And according to the producers behind the movie, Andrew Form and Bradley Fuller of Platinum Dunes, no one involved with the movie knew they had a potential hit on their hands until about a month ago.

Horror remake kings

Form and Fuller, along with their mega-blockbuster filmmaker friend Michael Bay, started Platinum Dunes in 2001 and quickly made a name for themselves remaking classic horrors like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2003), “The Amityville Horror” (2005), “Friday the 13” (2009), and “A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010). They made a nice profit on all of them – “Chainsaw Massacre” made $US107 million worldwide on a $US9.5 million budget, “Amityville” made $US108 million worldwide on a budget of $US19 million, and “Elm Street” made over $US115 million worldwide on a $US35 million budget.

Nightmare on elm street 2010 Warner BrosWarner Bros.2010 remake of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street.’

Since then, the company has expanded its portfolio. It got the rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, releasing two movies on the characters for Paramount. It teamed with Jason Blum at Blumhouse Productions to make “The Purge” movies – three releases have earned a combined $US319.8 million worldwide (all made for $US10 million or under), with a prequel, “The First Purge,” coming July 4. And it’s developing TV projects like “The Last Ship” for TNT and the upcoming Amazon series, “Jack Ryan,” starring Krasinski.

But Platinum Dunes’ comfort zone will always be horror, and it proved this weekend it’s a major player in the genre.

Krasinski’s power play

Screenwriters Bryan Woods and Scott Beck wrote the “A Quiet Place” script on spec and 18 months ago, while deep into preproduction on “Jack Ryan,” Form and Fuller got a call from their agents at WME that they wanted to pass along the script, which they described as a “high concept” genre movie.

“They send it over and the script is 67 or 68 pages long, and I’m like, ‘This is a movie? This is like a one-hour pilot,'” Form told Business Insider. “When we went through it you realise there’s no dialogue in the movie. The script had a map of the farm and numbers on a page for a countdown. There were literally pages that were just one number. So it wasn’t even like the script had pages of full text. But the story was there.”

A quite place paramountParamountJohn Krasinski on the set of ‘A Quiet Place.’

They took the project to Paramount, where Platinum Dunes has a first look deal, and the studio bought it. Then Form and Fuller reached out to their “Jack Ryan” star, John Krasinski, to see if he would play the role of the father in the movie, Lee Abbott.

“John called back a couple of weeks later and said, ‘I definitely want to play the dad, but I also want to rewrite the script and direct it,'” Form said. He and Fuller quickly agreed.

The project became even more attractive when Krasinski’s wife, Emily Blunt, signed on to play the role of the mother. On paper, it all seemed right. But would audiences get a “silent” horror movie?

A test screening leads to lots of anxiety

Form and Fuller said they only did one test screening of the movie before its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, and it got mixed reactions because of one obvious omission.

“The big problem was there was no creature in the test,” Form said. “It was either plates or a motion-capture actor. Sometimes John was in the motion capture suit playing the monster. In that basement scene he was the creature down there.”

A quiet placeParamount PicturesImagine watching ‘A Quiet Place’ with an unfinished CGI monster in it — or John Krasinski in a motion capture suit as the monster? One test screening audience did.

Not having a creature in the test screening was most apparent in the scene where the monster runs away from the daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), because her hearing aid hurts its sensitive ears.

“When her hearing aid goes off in the cornfield you have her in the shot but there was nothing behind her, so the audience did not understand that a creature came up behind her,” Form said.

But that scene worked incredibly well at the SXSW screening, when audience could see the terrifying creatures brought to CGI life by Industrial Light and Magic.

However, the uncertainty leading up to the night of that screening had everyone on edge. Though Paramount studio executives had seen cuts and liked what they saw, as Form put it, “1,200 strangers in a theatre can tell you something very different.”

“If there was optimism it was self-created,” Fuller said of the lead-up to the SXSW screening. “Usually when you go into a screening like that you know what you have, this was totally blind. It was crazy. We were all very apprehensive. When the movie ended and the people started cheering I put my head on my wife’s shoulder and cried because it was so fraught with tension and emotion. Because we had no idea.”

Bradley Fuller Andrew Form Nicholas Hunt GettyNicholas Hunt/Getty(L-R) Bradley Fuller and Andrew Form.

Now the movie is riding high. Leading up to its opening weekend it was sporting a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score. And Form and Fuller now have some bragging rights on their horror colleague, Jason Blum, as “A Quiet Place” topped the opening weekend box office of Blumhouse’s last two hit movies – “Get Out” ($US33.3 million) and “Split” ($US40 million).

“A Quiet Place” is the latest example that audiences will come out to theatres for more than just superhero movies and “Star Wars.” And though Platinum Dunes has no problem getting into the blockbuster game – it’s one of the production companies on the upcoming first Transformers spin-off movie, “Bumblebee” – the company is also striving to develop genre projects that are high in originality and will attract studios.

“It’s a miracle that a major studio made a movie that is practically devoid of dialogue,” said Fuller, who wouldn’t address the possibility of a sequel to “A Quiet Place” (though with its big opening weekend number, it would be shocking if Paramount doesn’t want one). “But I also think studios recognise they have to make concepts that get people to leave their homes, so as producers it’s incumbent upon us to find things that will get people to go watch a movie in a movie theatre. So if you find a strong concept, I think they will always get behind it.”

“A Quiet Place” is currently playing in theatres.

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