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‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ roars at the box office with $48.5 million

  • >> Brooks Barnes, The New York Times
    Published: 2021-04-05 12:13:40 BdST

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Moviegoers sent a message to Hollywood over the weekend: We’re ready to return to theatres — and we'll buy tickets even if the same film is instantly available in our living rooms — but we want to leave our grim world for a silly fantasy one.

“Godzilla vs. Kong,” a throwback monster movie in which a lizard with atomic breath battles a computer-generated ape on top of an aircraft carrier (before everyone decamps to the hollow centre of Earth), took in an estimated $48.5 million at 3,064 North American cinemas between Wednesday and Sunday. It was the largest turnout (by far) for a movie since the pandemic began.

The PG-13 movie was not even an exclusive offering to theatres. “Godzilla vs. Kong,” produced by Legendary Entertainment, was also available on HBO Max, a streaming service that sells monthly subscriptions for $15, less than the cost of one adult ticket at cinemas in major cities.

“People seem ready for emotional release, to experience that human connectivity — laughing together, getting scared together — and complete transportation that only movie theatres can provide,” Mary Parent, Legendary’s vice chairman and head of worldwide production, said in a phone interview.

Overseas, “Godzilla vs. Kong” collected $236.9 million, including a strong $136 million in China, a market that has lately preferred local movies over imported ones. The movie has not yet opened in other major markets, such as Japan and Brazil.

Some box office analysts were reluctant to declare a recovery for Hollywood, noting that coronavirus cases have been rising again in the United States and that parts of Europe have returned to lockdown. David Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, a film consultancy, said the turnout between Friday and Sunday — while a “clear and positive indication that moviegoing has inherent strengths that aren’t going away” — was nonetheless “half of what it would have been under normal circumstances.”

About 93% of theatres in the United States have been cleared to open, but government guidelines limit capacity to 50% and, in some big cities, 25%. The majority of theatres in Canada remain closed.

© 2021 The New York Times Company