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'Godzilla vs. Kong' sets global pandemic record

by Democrat-Gazette Press Services | April 2, 2021 at 1:48 a.m.
Godzilla vs. Kong

Last weekend's international rollout of Warner Bros.' "Godzilla vs. Kong" set a new pandemic record for a Hollywood film, a hopeful sign of an imminent return to moviegoing.

The film, which opened in North American theaters and on HBO Max on Wednesday, debuted in 38 overseas markets to an impressive $121.8 million, including $70.3 million in Chinese receipts. That's the biggest debut for a Hollywood film in China since 2019. The monster smackdown also grossed $12.4 million on 891 IMAX screens, also Hollywood's biggest IMAX weekend since December 2019.

The "Godzilla vs. Kong" debut outperformed the entire to-date international gross of the studio's December blockbuster release of "Wonder Woman 1984," which currently stands at $120 million overseas (and an additional $45.9 million domestic), according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore. The previous benchmark for a pandemic-era overseas opening was the $53-million premiere of the studio's "Tenet" in August.

While American theaters are slowly reopening en masse after a roller-coaster year of reopenings and closings, movie houses, including Regal and smaller chains (such as L.A.'s ArcLight), have not yet returned. Despite theaters operating at limited capacity, Universal's R-rated action flick "Nobody" debuted last weekend across 2,460 North American screens to $6.7 million. Los Angeles and New York, both recently reopened, were the two highest-grossing markets.

The "Nobody" outperformance is a boost to the movie business, which is still struggling. It also suggests that moviegoers are ready to embrace some genres that they've mostly opted to watch on streaming services recently.

"With the success of 'Nobody,' there is brewing a much-welcomed return to normalcy in terms of the ability of an adult drama to draw audiences to the multiplex," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at Comscore. "This represents a shift of focus from the family films that have been a dominant force."

The film is expected to be released as a PVOD rental April 16, per Universal's strategy for exclusive theatrical windows.

Family movies "Tom & Jerry," "The Croods: A New Age" and "Raya and the Last Dragon" have had the strongest theatrical showings among pandemic releases. Elsewhere at the box office, A24's Oscar contender "Minari" was the only best picture nominee to land among the top 10. The film, now in its eighth weekend of release, added $275,000 for a cumulative $1.8 million. Focus Features' "Promising Young Woman" remains the highest-grossing best picture nominee with a cumulative $5.9 million in domestic receipts to date. All eight of the 2021 best picture Oscar nominees have also had some option for home viewing.

"Raya," which is also available for purchase on Disney+ and was No. 1 at the box office for three straight weeks, earned another $3.5 million in domestic tickets over the weekend. "Tom & Jerry," which debuted in February, generated $2.5 million in sales.

Still, the business has a long way to go. About half of U.S. cinemas remain closed, and some chains are opting to preserve cash while they wait for more big titles to be released. The second-largest U.S. chain, Regal Theatres, reopened some locations starting today.

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