Sunday, 18 May 2014

Godzilla had a monstrous success in the box office

Warner Bros.' "Godzilla" reboot took in more than half of the Top 10 gross this weekend, and became the third $90 million-plus opener since early April. The haul brought the total gross for these films to $169 million, a decent jump from $146 million last year -- when "Iron Man 3" was king of the box office. The strength of 2013's late May releases, which included "Fast and Furious 6," "Hangover 3" and "Epic," may be tough to match. But for studios, the decent showings for the more expensive films, along with the continued strength of a lower-budgeted series, hits make the overall results positive as we head into the biggest grossing period of the year (Memorial Day weekend - through mid-July).

1. Godzilla (Warner Bros.) NEW - Cinemascore: B+; Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 62

$93,205,000 in 3,952 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $23,584; Cumulative: $93,205,000

If it's May 16-18, it must be Godzilla's turn to open to $90 million+ for a weekend (+Thursday night early shows). This was actually higher than pre-opening estimates suggested, although the film ended up dropping more on Saturday than expected (-17% from the combined Thursday night/Friday number, more than either other recent huge openers "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" or "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" did). 

"Godzilla" was a bit more of a mystery than those two films, in part because it doesn't have the surefire Marvel pedigree or the benefit of the presell of being a sequel. Though it is an iconic name brand, the 16 years since Roland Emmerich and Sony first tried to reboot it is an eternity in the movie franchise world. (The lack of sequels back then also made this fresher). Another real boost is its greater-than-normal appeal in 3D -- Warner Bros. reports that 51% of attendees bought higher-priced tickets in that format, above normal these days, with IMAX also reporting the best number for the year so far. 

This is performing much better than the original so far - the 1998 version opened to $44 million without the 3D price enhancements; the inflation adjusted figure would still have been much less (under $70 million). That film went on to $136 million and $379 million worldwide in 1998 figures. For its time, the international take was extremely high -- which is more common now. Warner Bros. will shortly report initial international totals, but they should be strong.

This is one of the last Warner Bros. films co-financed by Thomas Tull's Legendary Productions (they left for Universal with future projects last year). At $160 million, it is relatively economical these days. It has an unusually smart group of people involved -- director Gareth Edwards, who has a strong visual effects background, previously made the highly regarded if low-grossing "Monsters." The eclectic cast includes among others Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche and Sally Hawkins (not that the monster isn't the main thing here). The producers include veterans of last year's "Pacific Rim" (ultimately a modest success because of foreign appeal). Though the writers don't have extensive credits, they seem to have had the prerequisite knowledge of their subject. The resulting package managed to get better reviews than the prior "Godzilla" and the sense that the film turned out to be meant for more than just a quick buck.

What comes next: It's way too early to project how big a hit this might be, or whether it is big enough to launch another lengthy series of followups. But its initial impact shows that a new recycling of an established brand, if in the right hands, can yield success.

2. Neighbors (Universal) Week 2 - Last weekend #1

$26,000,000 (-47%) in 3,311 theaters (+32); PSA: $7,850; Cumulative: $91,500,000

$91 million in 10 days for an $18 million production budget film (over $140 million worldwide so far) is a terrific achievement for this Seth Rogan-centered comedy that has outperformed expectations and seems headed to as much as $150 million domestic, $300 million worldwide and likely sequel if not franchise status. The minor fly in the ointment is a 47% second weekend drop ("Ted," which opened to $6 million more, fell 41%). But this remains a clear success and should top fellow Universal hit "Ride Along" as the biggest comedy hit of 2014 so far (and more impressive, both are originals, not sequels).

What comes next: Two new comedies (the Adam Sandler "Blended" and Universal's own "A Million Ways to Die in the West") open over the next two weekends, but this should continue to fare well on its own.

3. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Sony) - Week 3 - Last weekend #2

$16,800,000 (-53%) in 3,991 theaters (-333); PSA: $4,209; Cumulative: $172,170,000

Sony, a Japanese-based company, made the first American remake of "Godzilla" but not the recent one, which makes the competition-enhanced drop done to their current fantasy character franchise entry ironic. Still, they got their entry out early enough (particularly in foreign territories) and marketed it precisely and smartly enough to get it up to $633 million worldwide so far.

That said, in fairness this is a better gross than the far-more front loaded earlier initial series reboot. Its third weekend fell 69% and took in only $11 million, although the total at that point was much higher ($228 million).

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