‘Godzilla Vs. Kong’ Propels Domestic Box Office Out Of Pandemic Depression With $48.5M 5-Day Opening

Anthony D'Alessandro

Sunday AM FINAL: Whoever said moviegoing was bound to stay dead, or that streaming has won, needs to go back to business school. Because a big event movie plus a holiday weekend, along with LA & NYC reopened exhibition markets equaled big bucks. At the box office, Warner Bros./Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong decimated all industry projections with a 5-day box office of $48.5M after a $12.5M Saturday, +8%. Godzilla vs. Kong‘s 3-day was $32.2M and that’s the high-end of the 5-day projection which was being made before its Wednesday opening. There has to be a lot of WarnerMedia executives who are glad that Godzilla vs. Kong was never sold to Netflix.

“Monstrous results all across the United States. Audiences are excited to see movies in theaters on the big screen with big sound,” exclaimed Warner Bros. Domestic Distribution Boss Jeff Goldstein this morning.

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Warner Bros. was the first to ignite the theatrical marketplace during the pandemic. They began to reopen theaters safely with Tenet back in August. Now the studio is finally delivering a box office champ here as vaccinations go up, and Covid cases decrease across the country.

“This movie represents a way for people to slowly re-introduce themselves into a social environment,” Josh Grode, CEO of Legendary Entertainment tells Deadline, “Heading back to movie theaters and learning we’re not going to get sick; it’s these steps we’re taking over the next two to three months to get back to the normalcy of life. This is a movie for a lot of people who are taking the first step.”

This weekend’s B.O. for Godzilla vs. Kong comes as a great sign for the motion picture business and movie theaters that the pandemic hasn’t made moviegoing extinct.

A pro-streaming Hollywood executive might think that this is an opportunity to declare WarnerMedia’s theatrical-and-streaming HBO Max day-and-date model a success.

No, no, no, no, no!

Think of all the money that Godzilla vs. Kong could have made this weekend without HBO Max. Godzilla vs. Kong‘s box office win here is an indicator of that, even with Canada partially open. Not to rain on Warner Bros.’ parade here because they truly made this a win in a way no other streamer could with a theatrical title. But, by having HBO Max in the mix with Godzilla vs. Kong just subtracts ticket sales, or depletes what might be another window. As studios like Disney look to twist exhibition’s arm over rental terms with a theatrical-streaming day and date release like Black Widow, and maintain a kooky business philosophy that “consumers will see movies where they want to see them,” the sheer power of Godzilla vs. Kong this weekend proves that moviegoing and theatrical are still king.

WarnerMedia didn’t reveal any hard, numerical statistical results as to how Godzilla vs. Kong did on HBO Max this past weekend. However Andy Forssell, EVP and General Manager of WarnerMedia Direct-to-Consumer did say this, “The HBO Max audience has spoken very clearly and loudly: they love this film and are watching it more than once. Comparing audience metrics in the first four days since its
release, Godzilla vs. Kong had a larger viewing audience than any other film or show on HBO Max since launch.”

A sole theatrical release in all its Imax, PLF or Dolby glory makes a piece of IP exclusive and premium and propels the revenue ancillary chain. A studio can then maintain some exclusivity on that title, create anticipation for those who may not have seen it, and sell it in another window, even if it’s getting more subscribers on HBO Max. Now, Warners has already indicated they’ll pivot to their event films from the theatrical-HBO Max model given their recent 45-day theatrical window deal with Regal for 2022. Also, the 2021 HBO Max theatrical slate plan was only intended for this year alone as the nation slowly comes out of the pandemic.

It hasn’t been decided yet if Legendary’s other Warner Bros. title Dune will go day and date theatrical and on HBO Max. This is despite the fact that the latter streaming service keeps promoting it as part of their 2021 suite. The success of Godzilla vs. Kong this past weekend makes a clear argument in Legendary’s negotiations with Warner to keep that all-star sci-fi movie strictly in theaters.

There are several second and third parties that benefit here from the glory of Godzilla vs. Kong in the ecosphere of the domestic B.O., not just Warner Bros. Exhibition, Imax, Dolby, concession makers, etc. reap in the financial success of this Adam Wingard-directed title.

Overall, Comscore reports that all films at the domestic weekend box office grossed $44.7M, the best three days we’ve ever seen since the pandemic began in mid-March, +143% from last weekend and get this: +109,000% since the same frame a year ago. The 2021 box office through April 4 counts $261.6M, -83% from the $1.8 billion that 2020 had grossed between January and the first weekend of April.

Just take a look at how this fourthquel overall boosted the industry. According to Comscore, the entire LA market for over the last two days for all films made $2.16M (note LA County theaters don’t go to 50% capacity until Monday, but Orange County is at 50%), NYC grossed $1.56M (that market still has 25% capacity, and there’s no word when it will immediately rise to 50%), Dallas Fort Worth saw $1.34M and Houston rang up $1.06M. The industry hasn’t seen these type of city-by-city box office numbers for a while.

Following the domestic B.O. fatigue of 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, distance was given on the calendar already for this fourthquel during pre-pandemic.

Grode tells Deadline, “We did a lot of analytics after King of the Monsters, and the audience showed that they wanted to see these monsters going at it. This movie gives the audiences what they want and we’re seeing the results of that.”

Several sell-outs abounded for Godzilla vs. Kong. As we told you before it opened, the movie booked a record amount of private auditoriums at 10K, more than any other title during the pandemic.

Domestic Imax auditoriums accounted for 9.3% of Godzilla vs. Kong‘s 5-day box office or $4.5M, with over 1k sold out shows (accounting for about 25% of all available IMAX weekend shows). That Imax domestic number is the best the large format exhibitor has seen in over a year since Bad Boys for Life in January 2020.

Godzilla vs. Kong‘s top 10 markets were Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Chicago, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Orlando and Atlanta.

The top 10 locations for GvK were 1. Cinemark Tinseltown El Paso, 2. AMC Burbank Los Angeles, 3. Santikos Palladium San Antonio, 4. AMC Orange Los Angeles, 5. Consolidated Victoria Ward Stadium Honolulu, 6. AMC Edinburg Texas, 7. AMC Disney Springs Orlando, 8. AMC Gulf Pointe Houston, 9. Santikos Casa Blanca San Antonio, and 10. Cinemark Pharr Town Center Texas.

Warner Bros had a theatrical and PVOD release for Godzilla vs. Kong in Canada which yielded an additional $3M per the studio’s press note this AM.

So, what happens next in the wake of Godzilla vs. Kong? Studios should see this as a promising sign to move up more wide releases, not back down like they did after the opening of Tenet. Warner Bros. has already created some runway for Godzilla vs. Kong here to hopefully leg out by pushing its highly anticipated New Line R-rated feature Mortal Kombat a week from April 16 to April 23.

As far as more Godzilla or Kong movies, Grode said this morning, “we have a number of ideas for more movies.” The franchise has amassed $1.76 billion from the four pics.

Again, if any Hollywood executive is asking where people want to see movies –at theaters or in the home– clearly, it’s not at home.

Duh.

****

Other B.O. notes: Sony, which didn’t spend the degree of P&A money to push The Unholy as Warner’s did with GvK, is calling the No. 2 spot with $3.2M for the Screen Gems horror PG-13 title. On the other hand, Sony Pictures Classics’ Golden Globe nominated French Exit drama starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges pops into the top 10 with $193K.

Atlas Entertainment had the Mira Sorvino faith-based movie The Girl Who Believes in Miracles at 640 theaters in 154 markets. The pic played best in the faith-based tracks of Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley along with Phoenix, however, numbers aren’t up to pre-pandemic levels for these Christian movies just yet.

Top 10 chart–daily grosses listed as reported by studio:

1.) Godzilla vs. Kong (WB/Leg) 3,064 theaters/Wed $9.6M/Thu $6.7M/Fri $11.6M/Sat $12.5M/$8.1M Sun/3-day $32.2M/5-day $48.5M/Wk 1

2.) The Unholy (Sony) 1,850 theaters Fri $1.2MM/Sat $1.2M/Sun $770K/$3.2M/Wk 1

3.) Nobody (Uni) 2,567 theaters (+107) Fri $1.06M/Sat $1.22M/Sun $790K/3-day: $3.07M (-55%)/Total $11.8M/Wk 2

4.) Raya and the Last Dragon (Dis) 2,031 theaters (-181), Fri $800K/Sat $761K/Sun $493k/ 3-day: $2.05M (-45%), Total: $32.1M/Wk 5

5.) Tom & Jerry (WB) 2,273 theaters (-191), 3-day: $1.4M (-48%)/Total: $39.5M/Wk 6

6.) The Girl Who Believes in Miracles (Atlas) 640 theaters 3-day $526K/Wk 1

7.) The Courier (RSA) 1,322 theaters (-319), Fri $165K/Sat $174K/Sun $113K/3-day: $452K (-57%)/Total: $4.2M/Wk 3

8.) Chaos Walking (Lionsgate) 1,605 theaters (-431), Fri $134K/Sat $149K/Sun $98K/3-day: $380K (-69%)/Total: $12.2M/Wk 5

9.) The Croods: A New Age (Uni) 1,212 theaters (-107), Fri $81K /Sat $76K/Sun $53K/3-day: $210K (-62%)/Total: $56.3M/Wk 19

10.) French Exit (SPC) 483 theaters 3-day $193K/Total $200,5K/Wk 8

Saturday AM Update: Godzilla vs. Kong is now up to $27.9M in three days after an $11.6M Friday at 3,064 locations, +73% over Thursday. The 5-day projection for the Adam Wingard-directed Warner Bros./Legendary title is $42M — far and away the best opening (3 and 5-day) we’ve seen at the domestic B.O. during the pandemic, meaning since mid-March of 2020.

“The industry is roaring back as Godzilla vs. Kong‘s incredible performance should silence the naysayers who predicted that due to the pandemic and the resultant appeal of at-home viewing, that the big screen experience would wind up as extinct as a prehistoric lizard,” beamed Comscore Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian this morning.

The wonderful thing here with Godzilla vs. Kong is that its 2019 predecessor with a $47.8M 3-day domestic opening was considered to be a dud, showing great stateside fatigue in the Legendary monster franchise after the big openings of 2014’s Godzilla ($93.1M) and Kong: Skull Island ($61M). In response, Warner Bros. moved Godzilla vs. Kong further on the calendar, from March 13, 2020 to pre-Thanksgiving weekend that year to give it space from King of the Monsters; this was well before the pandemic blew up the entire theatrical release calendar. Going way back to 2016, Godzilla vs. Kong was first dated for the post Memorial Day weekend frame of 2020.

At the June 2019 PGA Produced By Conference, Warner Bros. Studio Chairman Toby Emmerich said that Godzilla vs. Kong would be adequately delayed so that the studio could “deliver for fans in the way they were looking for…to deliver an A+ movie.” And a near A+ movie Warner Bros. did deliver in Godzilla vs. Kong with an A Cinemascore and the under-18 bunch hugging the monster mash movie with an A+.

Heading into the weekend, social media buzz for Godzilla vs. Kong has been electric, earning a 9 out of 10 on RelishMix’s chatter meter.

“Fans try to contain their enthusiasm for a big popcorn event with call-outs for nachos too. Fans have lost all sense of the global pandemic with frenzied chatter: ‘That warship deserves an Oscar for best supporting role to be able to support both of them without sinking,'” reports the social media analytics corp.

It is clear Warner Bros. spent to open this movie in theaters in a combined theatrical-HBO Max campaign, in a way that Disney did not with its theatrical-Disney+ day-and-date release of Raya and the Last Dragon.

RelishMix further adds that Warner’s Godzilla vs. Kong virtual marketing campaigns “flipped into overdrive” across the studio’s social pods for Warner Bros. Pictures 53.8M, HBO Max 1.8M, and Legendary Pictures 2.1M.

“The triangulation is feeding a social media universe which is overindexing at 530.4M which is 187% greater than normal for the action sci-fi genre.” Note these are amazing online traffic results for the pandemic. As the movie theater shuttered during quarantine, so did the social media wattage on films, and the social media viewership here is another indicator that the motion picture industry is getting back to normal.

Godzilla vs. Kong was super heavy on YouTube. Warner Bros. had only two videos for this incarnation, a trailer and a spot, which were posted and ripped-reposted at a huge viral rate of 44:1, clocking 409M views in eight weeks worldwide, with 79M views for the U.S. WB trailer, 23M on the Latin American channel and 9.3M on the WB UK channel. “Granted all studios boost their trailers, but the main U.S. Warner Bros. trailer has over 250k comments which is strong,” says RelishMix.

In regards to the cast, RelishMix points out that Godzilla vs. Kong star Alexander Skarsgård is “surprisingly semi-non-social, Millie Bobby Brown has the greatest social reach with an SMU of 48.2M, but Eiza González wins the prize for most activated cast over the delayed, then the re-dated campaign.”

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Some of the other marketing highlights for GvK include an Instagram bracket challenge where fans vote on the rival movies they want to see:

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In addition, all of the directors of Legendary’s monster movies assembled for a handprint ceremony at the opening day of the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, March 29. Also, how can we forget, but here’s how the activity of GvK on TikTok is looking:

In second place for the weekend is Universal’s R-rated Bob Odenkirk action movie Nobody with $2.78M, -59% for a projected 10-day of $11.5M at 2,567 theaters. It was expected that Nobody would get crushed in weekend 2 due to losing PLF turf to Godzilla vs. Kong. Nobody made $1.02M on Friday, -59% from a week ago.

Sony/Screen Gems’ The Unholy horror movie looks to be taking 3rd for the weekend after an estimated $1.2M Friday, and a 3-day estimated opening north of $2.755M at 1,850 theaters. I hear the movie was slammed with a C+ CinemaScore and it received a sinful 31% Rotten Tomatoes rating. PostTrak exits were worse with 52% in the top two boxes and a 37% recommend. Male-female split was 50/50 with 53% over 25. Diversity demos were 37% Caucasian, 33% Hispanic, 18% Black and 12% Asian/other. RelishMix saw the fire and brimstone rising against Unholy on social media before opening weekend, reporting, “Convo on the The Unholy flows down the middle with mixed chatter leaning negative about Hollywood’s view of religion, the devil, 666, Mother Mary and Easter while some fans pray for each other in threads.” Overall, social reach and engagement for The Unholy was “quickly dropped” per RelishMix with a social media universe of 62.1M built from Sony channels and the studio tapping its main Facebook page of 29.1M fans “instead of building out a new one, which is a pandemic pivot tactic used with shortened marketing runways.” Views on YouTube are close to 10M with one trailer dropped three weeks ago and ten videos quickly posting on Facebook with 4.7M views.

Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, which is also available on Disney+ Premier tier for an extra $30, made $800K in its 5th Friday at 2,031 locations, in what looks to be a weekend around $2M, -47%, in 4th place and a running total of $32.1M.

Warner Bros.’ Tom & Jerry is 5th for the weekend, looking at $500K on Friday, and around $1.2M, -52%, in its 6th weekend for a running total of $39.3M.

Update Friday AM: Warner Bros./Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong earned $6.7M yesterday, easing 30%. This brings the two-day total for the Adam Wingard-directed movie to $16.3M at 2,409 sites. This weekend’s number of theaters jumps to 3,064 as 22 prime Regal cinemas reopen out of the circuit’s 542 venues in Los Angeles, Houston, TX and California. The 5-day estimate for GvK now raises to $30M-$40M with the pic being available on HBO Max too. Today looks to be a promising day for the film with 76% of K-12 schools on break for Good Friday.

Good Friday has in recent years during the pre-pandemic been a robust day at the box office. The record holder is Warner’s Batman v. Superman with $81.6M in 2016 followed by Universal’s Furious 7 in 2015 with $67.4M. That’s with a full exhibition footprint of 5,88K theaters operating in the U.S. and Canada. While no event film will reach these numbers for a while until capacity restrictions are lifted, and Canada and Regal fully reopen, it just gives you a sense of how much can still be made at the box office. No one, clearly evident in GvK‘s rebound, has completely given up moviegoing.

Previous Thursday AM: On Wednesday, moviegoers demonstrated that they were truly yearning to go back to the movies.

How’s that?

Warner Bros/Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong posted what is a record opening day during the pandemic with $9.6 million at the domestic box office from 2,409 theaters or $3,980 per location. Since mid-March 2020, when theaters closed, and slowly returned in late August, no other film has done this type of business. Even though folks can watch Godzilla vs. Kong at home on WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max for the next 30 days, there are those who want to get out and experience this monster clash in a boom-shaka-laka rattling auditorium on a big screen.

The box office projection heading into this weekend over five days for Godzilla vs. Kong was $20M-$30M; hopefully the film can easily beat that. We say “hope” because we don’t know how front-loaded Wednesday’s opening day is. Nonetheless, this is an encouraging sign for the motion picture industry.

Keep in mind, MGM’s No Time to Die was originally scheduled to open over Easter weekend, and when that moved to the fall due to the hopeful availability of more offshore markets, Warner Bros. moved Godzilla vs. Kong to what is traditionally a lucrative holiday B.O. weekend.

Prior to Godzilla vs. Kong, it was Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984 that held the best first-day opening title during the pandemic, with $7.5 million on December 25.

Also a big plus here is that word of mouth for Godzilla vs. Kong is the best it’s ever been for a Legendary monster movie with an A Cinemascore, trampling the B+ grades earned by 2014’s Godzilla, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak audience exits were also strong with 86% and 4 1/2 stars and a 74% definite recommend.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the first title to play on 3,000 theaters, which will be reached Friday as Regal reopens 22 of its prime locations in the U.S. including their 42nd Street locations in NYC, and L.A. Live among many others. In sum, 655 locations get added Friday for a total count of 3,064 theaters.

PLFs drove 17% of GvK‘s Wednesday business, while Imax repped 8%. Keep in mind, most of Canada is closed with only 25% of the country’s exhibition open, and the Adam Wingard-directed monster mash is largely available on Premium VOD there.

Wednesday demos for GvK show 63% guys (who graded it A), 37% females (A), under 18 at 24% ( A+), under 24 (48%, A), over 25 (52%, A-), under 35 (72%, A) and over 35 (28%, A-). The fourthquel has the best Rotten Tomatoes score out of the Legendary monster movies with 80% Certified Fresh, besting Godzilla‘s 76% fresh, Kong: Skull Island‘s 75% fresh and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters‘ awful 42% rotten.

African‐American audiences gave GvK a 92% positive rating and 85% definite recommend on PostTrak. The pic’s overall first-day diversity demos were 33% Caucasian, 27% Hispanic, 23% African‐American, 10% Asian, and 7% Native‐American/Other.

Also opening on Friday is Screen Gems’ horror film The Unholy at 1,850 theaters, which is supposed to do very low single-million digits. Sony’s last notable “event film,” if you will, during the pandemic was Monster Hunter, which opened to $2.2M at 1,736 theaters over December 18-20. The Unholy has no Rotten Tomatoes rating yet.

The PG-13 movie is based on the book Shrine by James Herbert and is produced by Ghost House Pictures’ Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert and by Evan Spiliotopoulos, who also serves as writer and director of the pic. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Katie Aselton, William Sadler, Diogo Morgado, Cricket Brown, Marina Mazepa and Cary Elwes star. In Unholy, a hearing-impaired girl is visited by the Virgin Mary and can suddenly hear, speak, and heal the sick. As people flock to witness her miracles, terrifying events unfold. Are they the work of the Virgin Mary or something much more sinister?

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