In Godzilla vs. Kong, the King of the Monsters resurfaces after a mysterious three-year dormancy, dead set on a fight to the finish with his supersize simian nemesis. Arriving in the aftermath of more than a year of weak box-office returns, the $160 million sci-fi battle royal embodied a similar return from seeming oblivion for Hollywood. GvK grossed $48.5 million over its opening five days in North America theaters, according to Comscore, rampaging past the higher end of prerelease “tracking” estimates by nearly $20 million to become the most successful movie debut of the N95 era.
Obliterating the opening by former record holder Wonder Woman 1984, which lassoed $16.7 million over its debut three days in December, Godzilla vs. Kong’s ability to lure viewers back into proximity with other human beings, all sharing oxygen inside enclosed auditoriums, is all the more of a surprise considering that the movie has also been streaming on HBO Max since Wednesday.
“Even though it’s not going to hit the [box-office] numbers that it would have pre-pandemic, the movie is crushing every other pandemic performer,” says Shawn Robbins, chief analyst for Boxoffice Pro. “It has nothing to do with the real world. It’s not about politics. It’s not really saying anything. It’s just two big monsters fighting each other and having fun while they’re doing it. But now, as a kind of twist of fate, it’s the movie that is the next big step toward theatrical recovery.”
Originally set for a November 2020 release, the fourth entry in Warner Bros.’ MonsterVerse cinematic universe — and sequel to 2019’s underperforming Godzilla: King of the Monsters — opened to relatively monster numbers internationally last week. To date, Godzilla vs. Kong has brought in $236.9 million overseas (including $44 million in China) for a cumulative gross of $285.4 million. By contrast, other titles released this year under Warner Bros.’ controversial “hybrid model” (that sees films premiere in theaters and HBO Max at the same time), the Denzel Washington–Rami Malek detective two-hander The Little Things and the February animated romp Tom and Jerry, respectively grossed $29.2 million and $93.5 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.
Moreover, with 55 percent of the country’s theaters now open, including cinemas in New York City and Los Angeles that were among the last to get the operational go-ahead, the Adam Wingard–directed thriller achieved a kind of ticket-sales liftoff that WW84 and self-appointed savior of the theatrical cinema experience Christopher Nolan could not.
“Vaccines were essentially theoretical when Tenet came out, and they were just becoming available for the elderly when Wonder Woman did,” Robbins points out. “Now we’re seeing wide swaths of the population able to get them. Combine that with state restrictions relaxing, theater-seat capacities going up, as well as general word of mouth that theaters are open and movies are starting to come out again; it’s displaying that pent-up demand that people have to get back to the movies.”