With Godzilla vs Kong, a bit of swagger returns to the North American box office

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Once again, chaos and mass destruction are back at the box office. It’s almost like the good old days.

Godzilla vs Kong, one of the few tentpoles to dare to come out during the COVID period, is set to set a new high in ticket sales this weekend during the pandemic. It won’t be the kind of successful business such a big-budget publication would typically run, but experts are predicting a launch of at least $ 25 million.

Opening day ticket sales on Wednesday for Godzilla vs. Kong totaled $ 9.6 million, Warner Bros. said on Thursday – a single-day pandemic record and more than most weekend trips opening 2020-2021. Last weekend, the mash monster grossed $ 123.1 million internationally. In China, where cinema is near pre-pandemic levels, the film grossed around $ 70 million, double the debut of Godzilla in 2014.

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For the first time in a long time, there is a slight hint of box office success.

“It bodes well that consumer tastes haven’t changed so much that there’s no way to reboot the cinema,” says Joshua Grode, managing director of Legendary Entertainment, which produced Godzilla vs. Kong. “That tells everyone: the cinema is here and, yes, it may be different after the pandemic. But there is a viable industry out there.

Great challenges remain for the renaissance of cinema. With so many cinemas closed for almost a year, many moviegoers have lost the habit. Some are unlikely to return home with strangers until they are vaccinated or the pandemic has subsided. And even those who were convinced of the safety of showing movies by movie theater health protocols, they now have only more options at home. Godzilla vs Kong is simultaneously airing on HBO Max in North America.

But few scream as much on the big screen as King Kong and Godzilla. To help kickstart the film and bring some bragging back to theaters, the industry is relying on two of the most iconic and longest-running leviathans in movies. The destruction of another metropolis could help cinemas to rebuild themselves.

godzilla vs kong Gareth Edwards, from left, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Adam Wingard and Michael Dougherty with Legendary Entertainment CEO Joshua Grode attend a ceremony celebrating the reopening of the TCL Chinese Theater. (Photo by Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP)

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“The problem is less with convincing consumers to go to the movies than with convincing studios to open their films,” says Rich Gelfond, CEO of IMAX. “There was a reluctance on the part of Hollywood studios to release films because they weren’t convinced the demand was there. What I’m really hoping for this weekend is that there is a lot of demand out there and that it convinces them to open a lot of movies that have been left on the shelf.

Since the launch of “Tenet” collapsed last August and virus cases skyrocketed, most studios have postponed or rerouted their larger releases to streaming services. But as vaccinations intensified and restrictions eased, more and more theaters have opened. About 60% of theaters will be open this weekend, according to data firm Comscore. On Monday, Los Angeles County will increase its film capacity from 25% to 50%. For the first time since last winter, wide distribution will mean playing in more than 3,000 theaters. It’s still about 1,200 less than typical for a title like “Godzilla vs. Kong”.

Recently, ticket sales, although still well below their usual levels, are on the rise. The best start to 2021 was Tom & Jerry, with $ 13.7 million at the end of February. The peak of the pandemic belongs to Wonder Woman 1984, which launched with $ 16.7 million in December. Each were versions of Warner Bros. that simultaneously landed on HBO Max – a once controversial release plan that has helped theaters stay afloat and has proven to be an interesting test case for how viewers prefer to see and pay. a movie.

Nonetheless, the Walt Disney Co. recently postponed Black Widow’s planned summer kickoff until July, while pushing a number of titles on its streaming platform, Disney +. Part of what’s holding blockbusters back is the need for a global release to recoup their massive production budgets and marketing spend. (Godzilla vs. Kong cost around $ 160 million to make.) While film release in much of Asia is rejuvenated, the rise in cases in Europe and countries like Brazil has, for the moment, made a full global deployment impossible.

Godzilla vs Kong, Godzilla vs Kong at the box office Recently, ticket sales, although still well below their usual levels, are on the rise. (Photo: Warner Bros)

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, believes Godzilla vs. Kong will be “another staple of our education in the direction the industry is taking.”

“The theatrical experience will prove to be viable and resilient as it always has,” says Dergarabedian. “But it will be a different world, no doubt. I think it will be a lighter, meaner business in the future.

Some of the old standard practices that governed blockbusters are not coming back. Studios like Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures have made deals to shorten exclusive cinematic windows. Warner Bros. Movies will hit theaters next year for at least 45 days, half the traditional window, before moving versions to home platforms. These new models mean a recalibration of what films are lit in green and their value.

“The value of those streaming / pay TV rights is more valuable now because you have access to them much, much sooner than before,” says Grode. “So you kind of have to re-run your performance model of the movie over its lifetime.”

It also meant tense negotiations over profit sharing. When Warner Bros. surprised with its hybrid release plans for 2021, Legendary – whose highly anticipated “Dune” is set to be released in the fall by Warner Bros. – considered legal action before reaching an agreement.

“We obviously didn’t like the way they announced what they were doing in 2021, and I think they would admit they didn’t handle it perfectly,” Grode says. “But when you look at the state of the world, the facts as we all knew them at the time, their decision made a lot of sense.”

“You get over it fairly quickly and you take things in hand,” he added.

According to Gelfond, large format screens “which make the sofa as different as they can be, help theaters get back to work.” IMAX accounted for 14% of the Chinese box office for Godzilla vs Kong. This weekend, the film will be shown on 1,170 IMAX screens around the world. Exhibits in New York and Los Angeles, Gelfond said, are already sold out, albeit at a lower capacity.

The box office might not roar this weekend just yet, but Godzilla vs. Kong can show he’s got a bit of a bite left. Says Grode, “In the years to come, when people write about their return to the movies, I’m very proud that ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is part of this story.”

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