Weekend Wrap Up - a look at this week’s Industry Updates

April 5, 2021

Stomping right past industry forecasts of $20-30M, Warner Bros. tentpole Godzilla vs Kong opened with a massive $48.5M five-day opening (and a $32.2M three-day) – crushing the pandemic record for opening weekends (previously held by Wonder Woman 1984 with $16.7M). Industry analysts had been conservative with the movie’s box office projection, up until last Wednesday when the monstrous duo debuted with a record single-day opening of $9.6M. Earning $16.3M within the first two days, it became evident that Godzilla vs Kong was being embraced by moviegoers, despite the film being available on HBO Max. 17% of Wednesday’s business was driven by theaters with PLF (premium large formats) – moviegoers are sating their appetite for the best experience possible at big screen theaters


Could the box-office been higher? While Warner Media has only offered “Godzilla vs. Kong had a larger viewing audience than any other film or show on HBO Max since launch”, with subscribers watching it more than once, one thing is clear: ticket sales were left on the table. B. Riley’s Eric Wold argued that this weekend was “an indication that Warner Bros. made the wrong decision” with the hybrid release – Warner has already pivoted away from the day-and-date strategy in favor of theatrical exclusivity windows in 2022. The Wall Street expert added that this was a “positive indicator that an exclusive theatrical window is both preferred and necessary for a film to be successful”, and that “consumers want to return to theaters even with the onslaught of streaming options reaching homes.”


Notably, Deadline reports that it has not been decided if Legendary’s other film, Dune, will go day-and-date on HBO Max – despite the streamer promoting it for 2021’s offer. Dune is currently slated to release October 1st


Regardless, Godzilla vs Kong came within the ballpark of pre-pandemic releases. The previous “Monsterverse” installment, 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, had “flopped” with a $47M three-day open in May without capacity restrictions. Apples to apples, Godzilla vs Kong’s five-day was just 15% behind it’s predecessor’s $57M. This fourth entry benefitted from moving into the Easter holiday weekend after No Time to Die’s delay to the fall – the majority of K-12 schools were on break for Good Friday. With now more than 93 percent of the U.S. marketplace in play, the film is the first of this pandemic to play on more than 3,000 theaters because of Regal opening in prime markets this past Friday. The “A” Cinemascore and “Certified Fresh” Rotten Tomatoes rating does not hurt either.


Of course, this also marks the highest three-day weekend for the pandemic (estimated to be close to $40M). Given Godzilla vs Kong’s massive success, it is easy to forget this weekend’s new release from Sony, The Unholy, which opened to $3.2M for second place. 


This past weekend was the warm up – as the industry learned with Tenet, a rebound from this pandemic cannot depend on one title alone. Peaks and valleys are normal in the business, but due to this momentum from Godzilla vs Kong, we are finally primed for a substantial upward trajectory. Expect Mortal Kombat on 4/23 to give the box-office a second dose in preparation for the summer drumroll that begins 5/28 with A Quiet Place II and Cruella. Hopefully, Disney is paying attention – neither the studio or theaters would want a repeat of Raya’s drama for Black Widow’s release (which got a new trailer over the weekend).


“Exclusivity is value; exclusivity is money” – theaters are set to do robust business in the months to come and studios can only cash-in to the growing momentum with theatrical exclusivity. “There’s such a deluge of streaming content that it’s hard to discern what is worthy of our time. For better or worse, a theatrical release and the marketing heft that accompanies the films that opt to be shown on the big screen, signals that attention must be paid” asserts Variety’s Brent Lang.


With so many tentpoles stacked up for H2 – like Shang ChiSuicide Squad, and No Time to Die – we could see more box office openings on the scale of pre-COVID titles. In fact, we may see months that are typically slower (August thru Octoberexceed their 2019 box office totals.


Amid theaters regaining their strength, there is speculation that Netflix could release more films in theaters because they have reportedly acquired the rights to make two sequels for 2019’s blockbuster Knives Out. Netflix had tried theatrical wide releases before with The Irishman, but ultimately failed because neither Netflix nor theaters were willing to compromise on the 60-90 theatrical window. Agreements between theaters and major studios – Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Disney – ensure that would no longer be an issue. There exists the possibility that Netflix will experiment with shortened windows and hybrid releases in larger scale, should they make the deal with exhibitors.


In the meantime, look for Voyagers to keep the box-office pumping this weekend, Friday 4/09.

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