WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: Godzilla vs. Kong Shatters Pandemic-Era Opening Weekend Record w/ Gargantuan $32.2M 3-Day/$48.5M 5-Day Debut

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The North American box office is roaring once again.

Warner Bros.’ Godzilla vs. Kong more than lived up to its colossal title characters on its opening weekend, surging past expectations with an estimated $32.2 million over the three-day frame (in a pandemic-record 3,064 theaters) and $48.5 million since opening on Wednesday (in 2,409 theaters). Accounting for roughly 92% of the domestic box office, the film’s performance not only counts as the highest opening weekend of any film during the pandemic to date but puts it in the ballpark of pre-Covid-19 releases, suggesting a pent-up appetite for theatrical fare after more than a year of painful lockdowns.

Direct comparisons to its franchise predecessors simply don’t hold water given the curtailed theatrical landscape, but Godzilla vs. Kong’s three-day performance nonetheless came in just 33% behind Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which bowed with $47.78 million in its opening frame in May 2019 despite playing on over 1,000 more screens and without pandemic-era restrictions on attendance. Five-day comparisons, while also far from an apples-to-apples correlation given the films’ differing release patterns, are even more favorable to Godzilla vs. Kong, which is running a mere 15% behind Godzilla: King of the Monsters‘ $57.16 million five-day total. Warner Bros. reports that a significant portion of Godzilla vs. Kong‘s opening weekend gross came from premium large format theaters including IMAX, where it grossed an estimated $4.5 million over the five-day frame. PLF auditoriums have proven popular during the pandemic, as they allow for easier social distancing due to their more expansive size.

The reopening of Los Angeles-area theaters also greatly helped Godzilla vs. Kong reach the heights that it did. The market finished the weekend as the top DMA in North America, followed by New York, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Chicago, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Orlando and Atlanta.

Making Godzilla vs. Kong’s debut even more impressive was the fact of its simultaneous HBO Max release this weekend, meaning many ventured to the multiplex despite having the option of watching it from the comfort of their own living rooms.

Godzilla vs. Kong‘s sensational debut is even more noteworthy given that just 55% of North American theaters are currently open, the majority at reduced capacities. In Canada, where only 20% of theaters have reopened their doors, Godzilla vs. Kong was given a simultaneous PVOD release (HBO Max isn’t yet available in the country) that brought in an estimated $3 million, according to the studio.

To put all of this in perspective, the highest three-day opening of the pandemic prior to Godzilla vs. Kong’s release was Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984, which opened to $16.7 million in late December, when COVID-19 cases in the U.S. were near their winter peak. Like Godzilla vs. Kong, WW84 also debuted day-and-date on HBO Max, though a sizable number of that film’s audience clearly opted to watch the superhero sequel at home due to a smaller theatrical footprint, the more rampant spread of the virus at that time and a lack of large-scale vaccine distribution of the sort that’s happening now.

Godzilla vs. Kong also benefitted from a largely positive critical reception, with reviews strong enough to lift the film to a 76% “Fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences also appear to be enjoying the monster sequel based on its overall “A” Cinemascore and 93% Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score (from over 2,500 ratings to date). Meanwhile, the film’s PostTrak score was a solid 84 Index and 4 ½ stars, with an 85% Total Positive rating.

Based on this weekend’s numbers, Godzilla vs. Kong has already managed to leapfrog over Tom & Jerry and Raya and the Last Dragon to become the highest-grossing film of the year to date, and it has no major competition for that crown until the April 23 release of Mortal Kombat, another highly-anticipated Warner Bros. title that’s also slated for a simultaneous debut on HBO Max.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning — as we did in our weekend forecast — that Godzilla vs. Kong benefited from a more full-bodied advertising push than pandemic releases past, as widespread vaccine distribution has continued to bolster studios’ confidence in the theatrical marketplace.

With Godzilla vs. Kong’s dominance, it’s easy to forget that there was another major studio release this weekend. That arrived in the form of Sony’s The Unholy, which debuted in second place with an estimated $3.2 million from 1,850 locations. The Screen Gems horror title was inevitably drowned out by the bow of Godzilla vs. Kong and was also likely hurt by poor critical reviews (its Rotten Tomatoes score is just 33%).

The R-rated action film Nobody, which opened in first place last weekend, took a sizable hit from the presence of Godzilla vs. Kong in the marketplace, dropping a rather steep 55% to third place with an estimated $3.07 million. It’s hard not to conclude that the Universal title was hurt by demographic crossover with Godzilla vs. Kong, which appears to have siphoned away a good portion of Nobody’s young male audience. The Bob Odenkirk vehicle now has $11.87 million after ten days of release.

Fourth place went to Raya and the Last Dragon, which brought in an estimated $2.05 million — down a rather precipitous 45% from last weekend’s take. The total for the Disney release now stands at $32.19 million through the end of its fourth weekend.

Rounding out the top five was Warner Bros.’ Tom & Jerry, which grossed an estimated $1.4 million for a total of $39.5 million to date.

OVERSEAS

After opening to $69.2 million in China last weekend, Godzilla vs. Kong continued to turn out audiences in the country, dropping just 37% to an estimated $44 million. Its total in China now stands at $137.1 million, which puts it ahead of the pace of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which had $110.73 million there at the same point in its run. The film’s total international gross this weekend was $71.6 million, including $3.8 million in Mexico, $3.6 million in Australia and $2.7 million in Taiwan in its sophomore frames in each of those countries. Its international cume now stands at $236.9 million, while its global total is an impressive $285.4 million, $28 million of which has come from IMAX screens.

Nobody took in an estimated $2.92 million in 11 international territories, including new openings in Australia, Taiwan and several other markets. Its international total is now $9.22 million and its global cume is $21.09 million.

In Australia, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway dipped just 9% in its sophomore frame to an estimated $1.9 million, giving it $4.2 million on the continent to date. The sequel also opened in neighboring New Zealand, where it took first place with an estimated $465k.

Tom & Jerry grossed $3 million from just over 40 international markets, including a $1 million opening in Australia. The overseas total for the Warner Bros. release is $54 million and the worldwide cume is $93.5 million.


Title Estimated weekend % change Locations Location change Average Total Weekend Distributor
Godzilla vs. Kong $32,200,000   3,064   $10,509 $48,500,000 1 Warner Bros.
The Unholy $3,200,000   1,850   $1,730 $3,200,000 1 Sony Pictures
Nobody $3,070,000 -55% 2,567 107 $1,196 $11,874,295 2 Universal
Raya and the Last Dragon $2,054,000 -45% 2,031 -181 $1,011 $32,186,920 5 Walt Disney
Tom and Jerry $1,400,000 -44% 2,273 -191 $616 $39,500,000 6 Warner Bros.
Chaos Walking $380,000 -69% 1,605 -431 $237 $12,233,068 5 Lionsgate
The Croods: A New Age $210,000 -62% 1,212 -107 $173 $56,344,558 19 Universal
French Exit $193,000   483   $400 $193,000 8 Sony Pictures Classics
The Marksman $165,000 -54% 461 -390 $358 $15,035,132 12 Open Road
Boogie $115,000 -68% 603 -425 $191 $4,059,895 5 Focus Features
Minari $109,000 -60% 562 -350 $194 $2,070,000 17 A24
Promising Young Woman $80,000 -47% 605 -128 $132 $6,099,965 15 Focus Features
Wrong Turn $36,357 -59% 80 -53 $454 $1,010,300 10 Saban Films
The War with Grandpa $27,172 -69% 288 -50 $94 $21,080,406 26 101 Studios
News of the World $15,000 -87% 166 -454 $90 $12,604,080 15 Universal
City of Lies $8,292 -93% 24 -419 $346 $549,842 3 Saban Films

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