LOS ANGELES -- Godzilla towered over the competition at the box office last weekend as director Gareth Edwards' update on the classic Japanese monster tale defied industry expectations to post the second-biggest opening of the year.
Though prerelease audience surveys indicated that the film would debut with about $70 million, the sci-fi tale instead grossed about $93 million, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros. The only other film to have a stronger opening in 2014 has been Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which launched with $95 million last month.
Godzilla, however, did stronger 3-D business than any other film at the multiplex this year. About 51 percent of those who saw the movie shelled out a few extra bucks to see it in 3-D; that figure compared with the 44 percent who opted for the 3-D version of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 this month. Godzilla also did particularly well on IMAX screens, with 15 percent of the film's gross coming from that large format.
Critics have been fond of Godzilla, as the film has a 72 percent positive rating on aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Moviegoers like the picture too, assigning it an average grade of B-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
The opening weekend audience was 58 percent male and 60 percent older than age 25. Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution, said the movie appealed to an ethnically diverse audience as well.
"The picture played extremely well in small towns and Hispanic and urban areas, which I think tracking services overlooked in predicting our potential," Fellman said. "It was well received in urban areas because it lent itself to that audience. It had action, it was PG-13 and was a fun family event."
Godzilla, of course, is no stranger to the big screen. The 335-foot-tall monster first appeared in Ishiro Honda's 1954 Japanese film and was reimagined for American audiences in 1998, when Roland Emmerich's critically panned version took in $379 million worldwide. The latest Godzilla, which stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, sees the towering creature battling against a new monster -- a Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, or MUTO.
The picture cost around about $160 million to produce, about 75 percent of which was financed by Thomas Tull's Legendary Pictures, with Warner putting up the rest.
But even if the film tapers off domestically over this Memorial Day weekend -- when it will be forced to contend with the formidable X-Men: Days of Future Past -- Godzilla should continue to do excellent business abroad. Last weekend, the film had the biggest international opening weekend of the year, grossing $103 million from 64 foreign markets. The movie performed best in Britain, where it collected $10.4 million, as well as in Russia, Mexico and Australia. The film doesn't open in Japan until July, where it will be released by Toho, the company that distributed the original Godzilla series.
The only other new film that dared to go up against Godzilla this past weekend was Million Dollar Arm, Walt Disney Pictures' inspirational baseball tale. The sports picture failed to attract a broad audience, however, opening at No. 4 with $10.5 million. Disney spent only $25 million to make the film.
Million Dollar Arm is based on the true story of J.B. Bernstein (played by Jon Hamm), a sports agent who traveled to India in 2007 in hopes of finding a superstar pitcher. He launched a competition there, and its top two contenders, Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal), were brought back to the U.S. and ultimately picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The movie appealed to a largely older crowd, as 73 percent of those who saw it were over 25. Though the film earned middling critical reviews, moviegoers gave it an average grade of A-minus.
Hamm, 43, best known for playing ad executive Don Draper on AMC's Mad Men, has his first leading film role in Million Dollar Arm. Despite the movie's so-so opening, the actor's career won't take a hit, said Disney's executive vice president of distribution Dave Hollis.
"He owns the role, and I think he comes off as a movie star, as much as he hasn't had experience as a movie star," Hollis said. "This helps him get a step closer to getting the bigger roles."
In India, where the picture opened the previous weekend, the movie has sold only $439,000 in tickets. Although the country's moviegoers gravitate toward 3-D, action-heavy fare, films about Indians have done well there before. After earning 10 Academy Award nominations, the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire grossed more than $7 million.
MovieStyle on 05/23/2014
Print Headline: Godzilla tramples all comers