Moviegoers sent a message to Hollywood over the weekend: We are ready to return to theaters – and will be buying tickets even if the same movie is instantly available in our living rooms – but we want to leave our gloomy world for a goofy fantasy world.
“Godzilla vs. Kong,” a monster film in which a lizard with atomic breath battles a computer-generated monkey on an aircraft carrier (before everyone ventures into the hollow center of the earth), grossed an estimated $ 48.5 million between 3,064 North American theaters Wednesday and Sunday. It was (by far) the largest turnout for a film since the beginning of the pandemic.
The PG-13 film wasn’t even a theater exclusive. “Godzilla vs. Kong,” produced by Legendary Entertainment, was also available on HBO Max, a streaming service that sells monthly subscriptions for $ 15, less than the cost of an adult ticket at major city theaters.
“People seem ready to free themselves emotionally, to experience this human connectivity – to laugh together, to get scared together – and to complete the transport that only cinemas can offer,” said Mary Parent, vice chairwoman and director of the worldwide production of Legendary, in a telephone interview.
Overseas, Godzilla vs. Kong raised an additional $ 236.9 million, including a whopping $ 136 million in China, a market that has recently favored local over imported films. The film has not yet opened in other major markets such as Japan and Brazil.
Some box office analysts were reluctant to declare a recovery for Hollywood, noting that coronavirus cases in the US have risen again and parts of Europe are back on lockdown. David A. Gross, director of film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research, said that while the Friday-Sunday voter turnout was “a clear and positive indication that going to the cinema has inherent strengths that don’t go away”, “half of it” is still below normal circumstances. “
About 93 percent of theaters in the United States have opened, but government guidelines limit capacity to 50 percent and in some large cities to 25 percent. Most theaters in Canada will remain closed.
But Warner Bros., which was handing out Godzilla vs. Kong, was too busy popping champagne on Sunday to deal with the reservations that kill the buzz. “BIG FILMS ARE BACK WITH OUR KAIJU-SIZE OPENING!” The studio said in a press release about weekend earnings, using the Japanese term for overgrown movie monsters.
The Adam Wingard-led mash-up of computer-generated titans, which cost approximately $ 155 million to manufacture, benefited from strong reviews. AO Scott, who rated it for the New York Times, described it as an escape route made with “lavish grandiosity” and “zero pretension”. Ticket buyers gave the film an A grade in CinemaScore polls, which was higher than “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” in 2019 or “Kong: Skull Island” in 2017.
As Hollywood adapts to the streaming age by making new movies available for viewing at home faster – to the dismay of theater owners – quality matters more than ever, along with size and scope: what’s worth a trip to the theater (with face coverings for the foreseeable future) and what is not?
Non-franchise films without spectacular visual effects could have a tough time, box office analysts say, pointing to the disappointing arrival of “Raya and the Last Dragon” last month. Godzilla and King Kong, on the other hand, are cinematic comfort dishes: proven, larger-than-life, nonsensical fun. A large percentage of weekend ticket sales for Godzilla vs. Kong came from large-format theaters that charge a ticket premium. For example, Imax said that about 1,000 of its screenings in North America were sold out.
“Audiences are demonstrating the pent-up demand for blockbuster films on a grand scale,” said David King, an Imax sales director, in an email.
That was certainly true of Iveth Vacao, who took her 8-year-old son Jayden to an Imax matinee of “Godzilla vs. Kong” at the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.
“We don’t usually go to the theater, but we wanted to experience something,” said Vacao before the lights go out. “Covid made us appreciate things like that more. Sure, you can get the same movie at home, but not the same experience. “
Jayden didn’t want to guess which creature would emerge victorious. (“Can they both?”) But he was sure of one thing.
“When the next ‘Venom’ comes out, we’ll definitely be back,” he said, referring to “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” which was planned by Sony this fall. “I want to see it on the biggest screen.”