Since the outbreak began, Hollywood has kept a close eye on any film that might shed light on the film industry’s potential renaissance or demise following the pandemic’s conclusion.
Hollywood may now have a chance to make that film. It centers on a battle between a radioactive lizard and a giant ape that lasts approximately an hour and 53 minutes.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” from Warner Bros. opens in domestic theaters on Wednesday. The film, which will also be available on HBO Max, is expected to gross well over $20 million during the holiday weekend. (Warner Bros., like CNN, is a WarnerMedia company.)
That would be a fairly pedestrian result in normal times, but it’s enough to elevate the film to a potential monster hit, with one of the pandemic’s largest opening weekends.
And with vaccination rates increasing, more big-budget films returning to studio schedules, and in-person attendance at movie theaters increasing, the film could be a sign of better times ahead for the theater industry.
“‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is significant financially and symbolically for a movie theater industry that has been shattered by the pandemic,” Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told CNN Business. “This weekend’s premiere provides a real-time opportunity to gauge consumer enthusiasm for a film that truly deserves a big-screen experience while also being available to watch at home with a click and a subscription.”
The pandemic vs. “Godzilla vs. Kong”
This weekend, two of cinema’s greatest monsters square off in “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
This weekend, “Godzilla vs. Kong” pits two of cinema’s greatest monsters against one another.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” already appears to be a success for Warner Bros.
The film opened last week in China, the world’s largest film market, and earned approximately $70 million in its opening weekend.
It has already grossed more than $120 million worldwide, a strong showing considering Warner Bros.’ previous “MonsterVerse” film, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” grossed $394 million worldwide in 2019, according to Comscore (SCOR).
That was prior to the pandemic.
The film’s strong start in China is welcome news for theater owners in the United States, who have struggled for more than a year to fill seats.
While films like “Tenet,” “The Croods: A New Age,” and “Tom & Jerry” were notable releases over the last year, their box office performance has been mixed in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” arrives as the tides of movie attendance appear to be turning. Hollywood, according to Jeff Bock, senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations, “needs more popcorn flicks in theaters if it wants to cultivate a revival.”
“The industry’s return to form is a Catch-22, as none of the recent big-budget releases have met studio expectations in terms of overall grosses,” Bock said. “The film industry requires blockbuster content to connect with general audiences. Pure and uncomplicated.”
Warner Bros. is in a “unique position” because it is simultaneously releasing films theatrically and on streaming, he added, because this benefits “not only theater exhibition, but also their own streaming growth.” The studio announced in December that all of its 2021 films would be released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max.
“The monstrous opening [in China] last weekend undoubtedly engaged prospective audiences and contributed to the continued growth of buzz in North America, where theaters have been open but have struggled,” Bock added. “With another strong opening weekend, it will send a clear message to studios that audiences not only feel safe returning to theaters, but will also support summer blockbusters.”
“A ray of hope for the industry”
And this summer, perhaps more than most, is critical to Hollywood.
Summer blockbusters include Disney (DIS) and Marvel’s “Black Widow,” Universal’s “F9,” and Warner Bros.’ “The Suicide Squad.” If those films, and others like them, earn even a modest amount of money at the box office, it will signal to Hollywood that moviegoing is on the right track.
Additionally, it would demonstrate the coexistence of theaters and streaming, as several films this summer, including “Black Widow” and “The Suicide Squad,” will be available on both platforms concurrently.
It is far too early to predict what the future holds for an industry that recently endured one of its worst years on record. However, if “Godzilla vs. Kong” can build on its strong debut in China with a strong theatrical run in the United States, it will demonstrate to Hollywood that there is still some roar left in the cinema.
“The summer film season was virtually non-existent in 2020, for obvious reasons, and while the summer of 2021 may get off to a late start, there is reason for optimism,” Dergarabedian said. He did note, however, that vaccinations are critical for reestablishing consumer and studio confidence.
“This summer film season may prove to be a positive harbinger for the industry going into the fall/holiday season of 2022 and beyond,” he said.