‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Will Play in More U.S. Theaters Than Any Other Pandemic-Era Release

When “Godzilla vs. Kong” debuts in the U.S. on Wednesday, it will play in more theaters than “Tenet,” “Wonder Woman 1984” or any other pandemic-era release.

The epic monster mashup, from Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment, is screening in more than 3,000 North American locations. That surpasses the benchmark previously held by Christopher Nolan’s time-bending sci-fi thriller “Tenet,” having played in 2,810 locations. On average, new releases like “Tom and Jerry,” Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon” and Bob Odenkirk’s “Nobody” have been made available in approximately 1,500 to 2,500 locations.

Directed by Adam Wingard, “Godzilla vs. Kong” arrives in the U.S. after a massive start overseas. The film kicked off in 28 countries with a combined $121 million in ticket sales. Those figures mark the biggest opening weekend sales for a Hollywood movie at the international box office amid the pandemic. (“Tenet” previously had the best overseas start of the pandemic with $53 million.) “Godzilla vs. Kong” had an especially impressive showing in China, raking in $70 million in its first three days of release. Chinese cinemas are still capped at 75% capacity as a COVID-19 prevention measure, though the country has many more screens than the U.S. does. Even so, prior “Godzilla” and “King Kong” movies have made significantly more money in China than domestically. The upcoming installment will debut simultaneously on HBO Max, the streaming service owned by WarnerMedia, which isn’t yet available internationally.

Box office experts are exceptionally optimistic about the premiere of “Godzilla vs. Kong.” However, it’s unclear the kind of ticket sales “Godzilla vs. Kong” is expecting in its first five days of release. Early box office tracking is an inexact science and has proved to be unreliable in some cases, even before the pandemic upended the theatrical market. Insiders say the moviegoing landscape is still too volatile to predict advanced receipts, especially because it relied heavily on surveying consumers in theaters. So with an asterisk, sources suggest “Godzilla vs. Kong” could generate north of $20 million between Wednesday and Sunday. It cost approximately $165 million to produce.

“Tom and Jerry,” an animated adventure from Warner Bros., currently boasts the biggest domestic opening of 2021 with $14 million. In the time since COVID-19 struck, “Wonder Woman 1984,” the superhero sequel starring Gal Gadot, stands as having the best start after debuting (concurrently on HBO Max) last December with $16.7 million. Otherwise, there hasn’t been a movie to hit $10 million in its initial weekend, though “The Croods: A New Age” ($9.7 million) and “Tenet” ($9.35 million) came close.

Overall, around 50% of U.S. theaters have reopened, according to Comscore. Approximately 70% of cinemas had reopened when “Tenet” debuted, although some were forced to shutter in subsequent weeks. Venues that have reopened have been operating at 25% to 50% capacity, depending on the area, to comply with social distancing measures, which has limited ticket sales.

Private watch parties have been popular because it allows friends and family to book an entire auditorium. Warner Bros. said “Godzilla vs. Kong” has already pre-sold more than 10,000 private rentals at theaters across the country.

Regal Cinemas, one of the largest cinema circuits in the country, closed its 536 locations in North America last October in response to the lackluster turnout for “Tenet” and the dearth of potential blockbusters to follow. Encouraged by the return of moviegoing in New York City and Los Angeles, the chain plans to reopen on April 2 in time for Friday screenings of “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

There are several big titles in the coming months, including video game adaptation “Mortal Kombat” (April 16), “A Quiet Place Part II” (May 28), Disney’s “Cruella” with Emma Stone (May 28) and the “Fast and Furious” sequel “F9” (June 25). There’s even a possibility of a real summer movie season, should upcoming titles like “Top Gun: Maverick,” Marvel’s “Black Widow” and Disney’s family adventure “Jungle Cruise” keep their July release dates.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is making its way to the big and small screen after a kerfuffle between the film’s financial backers. Legendary, the production company behind “Godzilla vs. Kong,” threatened to take legal action over Warner Bros.’ decision to send its entire 2021 slate to HBO Max on the same day that movies premiere in theaters. The two companies have since hashed out an understanding. Legendary is distributing “Godzilla vs. Kong” in China, while Warner Bros. is handing the rollout elsewhere.

The film is the fourth entry in the MonsterVerse, a franchise populated by 2014’s “Godzilla,” 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island” and 2019’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry star in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which pits the titans against each other in a clash for the ages.

The movie has generated generally positive reviews (the same cannot be said about the 2019 “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”). It has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 80%, based on 93 reviews. Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge recommended audiences see it on the biggest screen possible.

“Just because Warner Bros. is treating the adversaries as bona fide A-listers doesn’t mean the rock-’em-sock-’em extravaganza amounts to anything more than a dumb-fun B-movie. Nor should it,” Debruge wrote. “Considering the havoc a microscopic virus has wreaked on the past year, being caught between two 400-foot titans doesn’t seem so bad.”