Godzilla Vs. Kong should be past $300 million worldwide by Monday or Tuesday.
In an ironic/appropriate development, the domestic box office has roared back to life on Easter weekend thanks to the powerhouse (especially on a Covid-curve) debut of Godzilla Vs. Kong. Warner Bros. and Legendary’s well-reviewed (79% fresh and 6.5/10 from Rotten Tomatoes) and well-received (an A from Cinemascore including an A+ from those under 18) monster mash grossed $32.2 million over the Fri-Sun portion of what’ll turn out to be a $48.5 million Wed-Sun/$52 million Wed-Mon Easter weekend haul. That’s (by far) the biggest opening weekend for any movie in North America in the Covid era. With around $52 million domestic by tomorrow, it’ll quickly pass The Croods: A New Age ($56 million) and Tenet ($58 million) among lifetime domestic cumes over the last year.
Not only did the Millie Bobby Brown/Rebecca Hall/Alexander Skarsgård/Brian Tyree Henry-led sequel significantly over-perform pre-release expectations over the holiday, it opened about on par with normal Easter openers like Ready Player One ($59 million Thurs-Mon in 2018) and G.I. Joe: Retaliation ($55 million Thurs-Mon in 2013). This despite the various pandemic-related variables (capacity limits, many/most theaters not being open during the day on weekdays, Canada’s theaters being 75% closed, etc.) and being available on HBO Max. If you consider the soft reception of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (a $48 million Fri-Sun debut for a $110 million domestic finish in 2019), I might argue that Godzilla Vs. Kong is going to play about as well as it would have in non-Covid circumstances.
The increased anticipation and excitement for Adam Wingard’s Godzilla Vs. Kong as the first big blockbuster to debut in a time when theaters are mostly open and vaccination efforts are in full swing may have canceled out any damage done by Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (which critics liked more than audiences, hence a $200 million finish from a $93 million debut in 2014) and Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters (which didn’t fare well with critics or audiences). The idea of Godzilla and King Kong throwing down is more commercially appealing than “Godzilla versus King Ghidorah.” That it was sold as (and received as) as a gee-whiz, kid-friendly, rock-and-roll monster battle flick (compared to the previous Godzilla films which were sold as uber-serious operas) helped.
One other variable is that King Kong seems to be more popular than Godzilla. Peter Jackson’s (critically-acclaimed) King Kong earned $205 million domestic and $550 million worldwide in 2005 while Roland Emmerich’s (infamously panned) Godzilla earned $137 million/$372 million in 1998. Even in the MonsterVerse, Godzilla earned $529 million worldwide in 2019 and then King of Monsters stumbled with $390 million in 2019. But Kong: Skull Island earned $569 million worldwide in 2017, becoming the biggest-grossing (sans inflation) monster movie outside of the Jurassic films. Godzilla may be popular, but even The Meg (Jason Statham versus a giant shark) earned $530 million in 2018. Even John Guillermin’s King Kong remake earned $90.6 million worldwide in 1976 (around $400 million adjusted-for-inflation) on a $24 million budget.
Godzilla Vs. Kong is a King Kong movie with Godzilla as a supporting character, one that pitches Kong as a John McClane-like action hero underdog. That’s a smart play. Godzilla has already had two starring vehicles in the MonsterVerse. Casting Kong as a reluctant hero (who is a friend to children) serves as a humanizing contrast to Godzilla’s “burn the village to save it” anti-heroism. Tom & Jerry “impressed me” in late February by opening with about as much ($14.11 million) as the film might have opened with had it disappointed in non-Covid circumstances, Godzilla Vs. Kong is arguably performing as if there is no pandemic (or at least consumers are doing what’s necessary to mitigate it). That’s incredibly encouraging for the industry.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one “big” movie move from July/August (or later) to May. The film continued to perform well overseas too, earning $75 million outside of North America. That includes $44 million (-36%) in China’s second weekend for a $136 million ten-day gross. That’s a stunning hold, holiday weekend or not, for a Hollywood flick in China, and already puts it past the $133 million cume of Alita: Battle Angel and the $136 million cume of Godzilla: King of the Monsters. As such, it’s the first halfway successful Hollywood release in China since Frozen II ($122 million) in late 2019, although in retrospect Tenet’s $66 million was pretty impressive compared to Mulan ($41 million) and Wonder Woman 1984 ($25 million).
That gives the $165 million-budgeted tentpole a current overseas total of around $235 million and thus a global cume of roughly $283 million. Yeah, barring a fluke, it’s passing $300 million worldwide on Monday or Tuesday. At this rate of descent, not accounting for improved theatrical conditions (or further closures due to outbreaks), it’s looking like Godzilla Vs. Kong will end up with an overseas total of around $390 million, which again shows how “not half-bad” Tenet’s $305 million overseas gross was in more challenging circumstances. As for domestic projections, if it plays like Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1.89x the six-day total), it’ll end with $96 million. If it legs out like King Kong (3x its $72 million six-day launch over the year-end holiday blitz), then it’ll top $155 million domestic.
Offhand, I’d guess somewhere between those two extremes, although a run like Alita ($86 million after a $42 million Thurs-Mon debut) also gets Godzilla Vs. Kong to around $96 million. Legs like G.I. Joe: Retaliation ($122 million from a $55 million Thurs-Mon debut) or Ready Player One ($135 million/$59 million) gets it to $115-$120 million domestic by the end. It’s not quite apples and oranges. I imagine some potential repeat business will be sucked up by HBO Max, as well some consumption among the casually curious. That said, with Black Widow moved to July and F9 pushed to June, there’s nothing on tap on this scale until (at best) Mortal Kombat on April 23 and A Quiet Place part II on Memorial Day.
Again, the big news is that Godzilla vs. Kong opened at essentially the same relative highs as it might have had it opened without any Covid-specific variables while also being concurrently available on HBO Max. Sure, with this level of hype and interest, we might have seen an even bigger debut in conventional circumstances, although I’d argue that at least some of the hype/interest was specifically because of the “first IMAX-friendly blockbuster of the Covid vaccine era” hook, and that it might have opened on this level amid an otherwise crowded slate last March or last November. Come what may, Warner Bros. got to have its cake and eat it too. Godzilla Vs. Kong was the right movie at the right time.