“Godzilla vs. Kong” debuted in U.S. cinemas on Wednesday and nabbed a sizable $9.6 million, marking the best opening day total of the coronavirus era.
The monster mashup — from Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment — has the added benefit of playing in more theaters than any other movie that has been released during the pandemic. “Godzilla vs. Kong” screened in 2,409 venues on Wednesday and will expand to 3,064 locations by Friday. The widest footprint prior to this weekend was Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” which played in 2,800 theaters.
More than 94% of the U.S. marketplace has reopened, according to Warner Bros. Yet only 30% of Canadian theaters have resumed operations. Among the U.S. cinemas back in business, many are running at reduced capacity, including in New York City and Los Angeles, to comply with social distancing measures. Earlier this week, Los Angeles county was approved to the Orange Tier, which allows indoor venues to increase capacity from 25% to 50%. That’s a notable step forward for the movie theater business, however the change isn’t going into effect until Monday, April 5.
Those restraints aren’t expect to curb ticket sales, at least by pandemic standards. “Godzilla vs. Kong” should easily land the biggest domestic debut of the year — and since COVID-19 hit last March. As it stands, Warner Bros.’ family flick “Tom and Jerry” had the biggest opening weekend of 2021 with $14 million. Meanwhile, “Wonder Woman 1984” holds the title for the biggest opening weekend of the pandemic with $16.7 million. That film opened last December, when theaters in Los Angeles and New York City, two of the biggest movie markets, hadn’t reopened. Prior to “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the “Wonder Woman” sequel (also from Warner Bros.) had the best opening-day total of the pandemic with $7.5 million on Christmas Day.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” was initially expected to gross north of $20 million over the extended weekend, but at this pace, it currently looks to smash that benchmark. The film — which cost $165 million to produce — secured an “A” CinemaScore from audiences, a reception that could bode well for its big-screen run.
The movie premiered simultaneously on HBO Max, though it’s unclear how many subscribers have opted to watch it. The streaming service, owned by WarnerMedia, hasn’t yet launched internationally.
Box office analysts appear encouraged by the robust turnout in theaters since “Godzilla vs. Kong” is already available to watch at home.
“So people still go to see movies in theaters even when available at no extra cost on a streaming platform at home,” Rich Greenfield of LightShed wrote on Twitter. “Looks like Hollywood can learn from [Warner Bros.] and [WarnerMedia CEO] Jason Kilar.”
Directed by Adam Wingard, “Godzilla vs. Kong” opened last weekend at the international box office and has collected a huge $121 million to date. It had an especially powerful start in China, kicking off with $70 million. Legendary Entertainment is distributing “Godzilla vs. Kong” in China, while Warner Bros. is rolling out the film in all other territories.
“Godzilla vs. Kong,” the fourth entry in the MonsterVerse franchise, sees a radioactive sea monster face off against a giant ape. It stars Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry.