‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Could Make Up to $50 Million This Weekend, but It’s Already a Success

With theaters losing the "Knives Out" sequels to Netflix, Godzilla, King Kong, and Warner Bros. are providing the good news the industry needs right now.
"Godzilla vs. Kong"
"Godzilla vs. Kong"
Legendary/Warner Bros.

With a two-day total of $16.7 million, “Godzilla vs. Kong” should make as much as $50 million over its five-day opening — up to double the industry consensus of about $25 million. That would represent more than 85 percent of the total domestic gross earned to date by “Tenet” ($58 million) and “The Croods: A New Age” ($57 million) — the two best-performing titles since theaters began reopening. Even more remarkable: “Godzilla” is also available at home for HBO Max subscribers.

Days 3 through 5 of a midweek opener usually account for anywhere from 50 percent to double the gross of days 1 and 2. At the low end, a $35 million gross would still qualify as quite successful — but here’s why it’s likely that the higher estimates would hold.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” made $9.6 million on Wednesday and $6.7 million on Thursday. Those numbers weren’t boosted by the usual Tuesday previews — but the film benefits from the Good Friday holiday recognized by most schools and many businesses. It also has word of mouth on its side, with an ‘A’ Cinemascore, as well as anecdotal reports of enthusiastic audience response. It will also benefit from Easter Sunday, usually a good day for theater attendance, and virtually no competition.

Nearly all U.S. audiences are within driving distance of a theater that’s playing “Godzilla vs. Kong,” although many remain closed. (Regal will open most of its theaters April 16; Pacific Theaters, which include the Arclight locations that are strong in Southern California, remain closed). In Canada, only a quarter of its theaters are in operation. Most theaters have seating restrictions and operate with fewer showtimes, to allow intermissions for cleaning.

Initial audience breakdowns from Warner Bros. report that Blacks and Latinos made up 50 percent of ticket buyers. The audience was younger than usual (24 percent under 18, 48 percent under 25). That suggests less resistance to theaters from key groups — and possibly also less access to HBO Max.

For those films with a high-impact theatrical experience — like “Godzilla vs. Kong,” or the upcoming “Black Widow” — it’s possible that home access will be less of a deterrent. That’s great news for theaters that book “Black Widow;” not only would viewers need a Disney+ subscription, but they’d also have to pay an additional PVOD charge.

More than anything, the “Godzilla vs. Kong” performance means encouragement. Key tests ahead are “A Quiet Place Part II” (Paramount, May 28) and “F9” (Universal, June 25), both of which are initially theater exclusives. This weekend’s results might suggest the temptation to move up the dates, but foreign results are important for both titles and Western Europe remains a disaster area for theaters. However, other titles might seize the opportunity.

KNIVES OUT, from left: Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Jaeden Martell, 2019. ph: Claire Folger / © Lionsgate / courtesy Everett Collection
“Knives Out”Claire Folger / © Lionsgate / courtesy Everett Collection

This is especially encouraging after the stunning news that Netflix paid nearly $450 million to acquire the rights for two sequels to “Knives Out.” Rian Johnson’s unexpected hit, starring Daniel Craig as a detective in a comic murder mystery, was Lionsgate’s best near-term theatrical franchise.

What could have meant a $500 million worldwide gross for theaters now belongs to streaming. (Also in the hunt for the rights were Amazon and Apple.) In bidding situations like these, streamers have deep pockets that leave studios in the dust. It’s a huge blow to Lionsgate, which has the #6 share of domestic box office; exhibitors need its continued presence.

Everyone was angry when the studio announced its day-and-date plans for 2021, but Warners has done a terrific job in launching this film and showing its commitment to theaters. The business needs the “Godzilla vs. Kong” boost; here’s hoping it’s only one of many to come.

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