Why ‘Godzilla vs. Kong ‘may be a pandemic anomaly

12:43 pm PDT 4/6/2021


Pamela mcclintock

The impressive national bow of $ 48.1 million indicates a pent-up demand to go to the movies, but studio experts caution that a day and date premiere should not be viewed as the norm.

The debut of Legendary and Warner Bros. ‘ Godzilla vs. Kong on HBO Max on March 31, the same day the big-budget movie opened in theaters, became an afterthought when the monster showdown roared to a $ 48.1 million opening at the domestic box office, by far a pandemic better and providing a great confidence shake for the theatrical business.

HBO Max doesn’t release viewership figures, so it’s unclear how far the MonsterVerse store brought subscribers to the $ 15-a-month service. But the consensus among industry insiders is that a simultaneous debut won’t become the industry norm for post-pandemic big tentacles for fear of hurting a movie’s box office chances. There were unique circumstances surrounding Godzilla. “I was alone in the market,” says a rival studio executive. “What it shows me is that people are dying to get out of the house and go to the movies.”

Wall Street came to the same conclusion. “A year from now, I would be surprised if someone did this. No real conclusion can be drawn from Godzilla vs. Kong in regards to HBO Max. These are not real conditions, ”says B. Riley Securities analyst Eric Wold.

Others agree. “I still believe that to maximize revenue, you still need a dedicated cinematic window. The window may be getting shorter, but it has yet to start with that, ”says MKM Partners analyst Eric Handler. “What we got was a theatrical victory. It’s a good victory in a shitty environment.”

For Legendary, which has seen the movie gross more than $ 285 million globally so far, the plan has been a success. “I think a great movie like this that works should tell everyone that if we are rational in the way we release movies, there is an appetite for a shared experience in a theater,” says Legendary CEO Joshua Grode, who adds that the decision to go and release the film in a deteriorating US market “was not for the faint of heart.”

The film has also been a hit for the giant screen exhibitor Imax, grossing $ 4.5 million so far domestically and $ 18 million in China.

Without a doubt, the pandemic has had the effect of collapsing the sacred theatrical window to just 17 days, 31 days for blockbusters, up from approximately 74 days in previous years. But most studios are avoiding a day-and-date strategy for fear of cannibalizing ticket sales at the box office and angering talents and filmmakers. WarnerMedia and Warner Bros. came under fire after announcing in December that they would release their entire 2021 list simultaneously in open theaters and on HBO Max over a period of one month.

Then, Warners backtracked to say that this was just pandemic-era policy, and that it would adhere to an exclusive theatrical window for its films starting in 2022, including 45 days for larger titles. “I still believe that to maximize revenue, you need a dedicated cinematic window. The window may be shortened, but you have to start with that, ”says Handler.

A source says Godzilla vs. Kong it will soon break even, a great feat in the era of the pandemic. However, Hollywood veterans caution that the MonsterVerse feature had the advantage of facing zero competition in terms of other films. A prominent speaker notes: “These are still rules for a pandemic.”

A version of this story appeared in the April 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here for subscribe.

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