Universal’s Nobody starring Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk punched in at #1 with $6.7M over the weekend – in-line with the growing expectations of box office analysts. Maintaining last weekend’s momentum, the number one box office market continues to be Los Angeles with $1.1M in its second week back (NYC was number two).
Nobody’s debut sets a new pandemic-benchmark for films of its genre (The Marksman and The Little Things), but was hardly this weekend’s headliner. Godzilla vsKong thundered overseas, with a pandemic-record breaking international open of $122M. In a single weekend, that crushes Wonder Woman 1984’s current overseas total of $120M. The long-awaited clash of the titans will arrive in the U.S. this Wednesday, March 31st in theaters and HBO Max, but this monstrous performance bodes well for a strong domestic debut. Ticket sales for Godzilla vs Kong were the highest in China with $70.3M – China’s biggest opening weekend for a non-local film.
As a result of the pandemic, studios and theater chains are planning on shorter theatrical windows – shrinking the 60-90 day window that both parties deem antiquated. Following the Warner Bros. announcement to reinstate theatrical exclusivity in 2022, consensus is building around 30 to 45 days for major studio films and (in a deal unique to Universal) 17 to 30 days for films of smaller scale. Sony, the only major studio without a streaming arm, has hinted at taking advantage of shorter windows too. As we’ve noted before, the average film before the pandemic had already earned upward of 80% percent of their total box office revenue by day 30. For example, Avengers: Endgame had already accumulated 91% of its $858M domestic gross after a month in theaters.
Disney will continue to experiment with hybrid releases with PVOD for subscribers, like they (unsurprisingly) announced for Black Widow this summer (now July 9th), while also sending certain films like Pixar’s Luca direct-to-streaming. Expect studios to practice more flexibility between big and small screen content, but not at the expense of movie theaters. Streaming and theatrical offers are not in opposition to one another.
“Streaming is more disruptive to other streaming; the big screen is a unique experience in a different way. People don’t stop going to concerts just because Spotify gives them access to millions of songs”, asserts Paul Dergarabedian to Observer. Of course, the explosive growth of Disney Plus – crossing 100 million subscribers in just 16 months – forces Netflix to recognize an emerging rival in the streaming space. However, in thirteen years Netflix has not convinced moviegoers to skip theaters; Disney Plus, HBO Max (and definitely not Paramount Plus) won’t either. Theaters are not struggling because of streaming – the setback is solely on the pandemic. And team, we are nearing this event’s endgame.
Vaccinations across the U.S are rolling out at a robust pace and more theaters in all major markets continue to re-open. Despite Disney overhauling their theatrical calendar last week, highly anticipated titles like F9, Black Widow, and The Suicide Squad continue to pool into this summer and H2. With Godzilla vs Kong and Mortal Kombat on the horizon, the momentum remains intact for theaters to re-capture that feeling of “must-see” at the big screen this year.
A trend that started before the pandemic, film studios are not afraid to break away from “peak months” – the right film can play well anytime of the year. January was long thought to be a slow month, until 2015’s American Sniper ($89M), 2020’s Bad Boys for Life ($62.5M). February too – until 2017’s Black Panther ($202M) and 2016’s Deadpool ($132M) hit theaters. 2019’s Joker ($96M) and Venom ($80M) proved October to be viable. Due to the pandemic delays, the current slate has at least one tried-and-true blockbuster per month: June (F9), July (Top Gun, Black Widow, Jungle Cruise), August (Hotel Transylvania 4, The Suicide Squad, Candyman), September (Marvel’s Shang Chi, Venom 2, Boss Baby 2), October (Dune, No Time to Die, Halloween Kills), November (Marvel’s Eternals, Ghostbusters, Mission: Impossible 7), and December (Spider-Man: No Way Home, Sing 2).
Following Godzilla vs Kong’s mid-week release this Wednesday, Sony’s The Unholy plans to haunt moviegoers this Friday, April 2nd.