NEW YORK (WABC) -- In Hollywood, it was a mega opening for "A Quiet Place II" over the holiday weekend, and big bucks were spent to see "Cruella" as well.
These are hopeful signs for a business that had to shut down for more than a year due to the pandemic.
The future of what insiders call "exhibition" has been in doubt during a crisis that one expert calls the worst since movies were invented.
However, after a pandemic that caused so much hardship and a business that lost billions of dollars, moviegoers may emerge better off than ever before.
Folks in North America are going to the movie theaters again, willing to spend $57 million to see the sequel to 2018's "A Quiet Place." That is more than the original grossed during its opening before the pandemic, and another $26.5 million was spent to see "Cruella" over the holiday weekend.
Pamela McClintock, Senior Film Writer for The Hollywood Reporter, has one explanation.
"There are many people who want to return to normal," she told Eyewitness News via Zoom. "It's kind of like taking a stand, right? It's like, I'm going to the movies, going to the movies to be with each other again. When you look at a horror movie or a comedy, people want to hear a roomful of their comrades laughing (or screaming), and you can't replicate that in the home."
It's good news for theater owners after a disastrous year.
"This is probably the most unprecedented crisis that the theatrical business has faced since its inception," McClintock said.
Asked if the pandemic had hastened historic shifts already in the works, McClintock said she "definitely" believes so.
Movies like "Cruella" are now available at home the same day the movie reaches theaters, which is not necessarily a bad thing said the expert.
"It gives consumers more choice," McClintock said. "If you don't want to go to the theater, you have the option of watching it at home."
Folks had to wait at home for three months to see the latest titles, but not anymore as it is part of a deal called a "window" between studios and theater owners.
"It's gone," McClintock said. "It's completely gone."
After this year, it'll be replaced with a window half as lengthy: 45 days.
To compete, theater owners place increasing reliance on premium large formats like IMAX. It is a back to the future approach reminiscent of the 1950s when the studios used wide screen spectacles to compete with broadcast TV.
Then, as now, the net effect is to disrupt the entertainment business in favor of consumers, who now have more choice as how and where to spend their dollars.