Warner Bros. and Legendary’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” may be king of the box office, but it only managed a meek roar. The monster sequel brought in $49 million when it debuted in 4,108 locations, a disappointing start given its $200 million price tag.
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is the third installment in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, launched well behind its predecessors, 2014’s “Godzilla” ($93 million) and 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island” ($61 million). Like those films, the latest tentpole is expecting to make the majority of its ticket sales overseas, where the eponymous other-worldly creature is a huge hit. “King of the Monsters” bowed with $130 million at the international box office for a global opening weekend of $179 million.
“The challenge and goal for us is to make sure the audience broadens out,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. head of domestic distribution. “The movie is dependent on broadening beyond just the fanbase.”
That core demographic consists mostly of older male moviegoers, with 59% over the age of 25 and 67% male. Audiences also shelled out to see the monster movie in top quality, as Imax screens accounted for $8.1 million of domestic ticket sales. Directed by Michael Dougherty, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” sees the titular monster who facing off against his nemesis, King Ghidorah, and other ancient mythic creatures who are wreaking havoc on Earth. The film stars Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown and Bradley Whitford.
Goldstein adds, “The good news is kids are out of school starting today and people are on vacation, so you have audiences available seven days a week.”
Another newcomer this weekend, Paramount’s “Rocketman,” took off in third place with $25 million in ticket sales, which, coincidentally, is roughly the same number of sunglasses Taron Egerton wore to play Elton John in the fantasy biopic directed by Dexter Fletcher.
Overseas, “Rocketman” pocketed $19.2 million, bringing its worldwide tally to $56 million. In Russia, gay sex scenes were censored from the film. John and the “Rocketman” filmmakers responded saying, “We reject in the strongest possible terms the decision to pander to local laws and censor “Rocketman” for the Russian market. Paramount Pictures have been brave and bold partners in allowing us to create a film which is a true representation of Elton’s extraordinary life, warts and all.”
Though the jukebox musical will inevitably be compared to last year’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Fox’s Oscar-winning Queen biopic that generated over $900 million globally, “Rocketman” doesn’t need to reach those box office heights to become a success. Paramount shelled out $40 million to produce the R-rated “Rocketman,” which doesn’t shy away from sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
Unlike “Bohemian Rhapsody” and other musical movies like “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman,” and “A Star Is Born,” which all opened in late fall, Paramount opted to release “Rocketman” in the beginning of summer.
“For us, the advantage of going in the summer was counterprogramming,” said Kyle Davies, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution. “It’s an R-rated movie for adults. I think that will be our advantage.”
“Rocketman” also enjoyed love from critics and audiences alike, boasting a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and an A- CinemaScore.
“In the summer, you need to be this event franchise that everyone knows about, and if you’re not that, you better be good and original, and I think that’s what ‘Rocketman’ is,” Davies said.
In fourth place, Universal and Blumhouse’s “Ma,” a psychological thriller starring Octavia Spencer, picked up $18.2 million when it opened on 2,808 screens. That represents a promising start given the film’s $5 million production budget. “Ma,” Spencer’s first solo leading role, follows a lonely middle-aged woman who befriends some teenagers after they ask her to buy alcohol for them. After Ma lets the high schoolers party in her basement, the festivities start to take an creepy turn. Tate Taylor, best known for “The Help” and “Girl on the Train,” directed “Ma.”
“We saw a great opportunity here,” Universal’s president of domestic distribution Jim Orr said of “Ma’s” release date. “Blumhouse took a unique concept and gave audiences something very different in this crowded summer.”
Disney’s “Aladdin” dropped to the No. 2 spot, adding another $42.3 million during its second weekend in theaters. Directed by Guy Ritchie, “Aladdin” has now earned $185 million in North America and $260.9 million overseas.
Rounding out the top five is Lionsgate’s “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” which collected $11.1 million for a domestic haul of $125 million.
In eighth place is Annapurna’s “Booksmart,” Olivia Wilde’s acclaimed directorial debut. The coming-of-age comedy generated another $3.3 million this weekend, marking a 52% decline from its opening weekend. The film has made $14.3 million to date.
This weekend’s offerings provided a much-needed boost in ticket sales. Box office receipts are up 62% from the same frame in 2018, according to Comscore. Those figures are helping to close the gap in year-over-year grosses, which are currently pacing 7.6% behind last year.