Kong: Skull Island debuted above expectations this weekend, but was it good enough for a movie believed to have cost just south of $190 million to make and $130 million to market? And what does this mean for Godzilla: King of Monsters (due 2019) and Godzilla vs. King Kong (due 2020)?
Short answer: Ask again in a couple of weeks, but it probably [wait for it] all depends on [like you didn’t already know the answer] China.
Long answer: Riding a recent surge in social media buzz in response to a hold-nothing-back final trailer, Kong: Skull Island beat the projections this weekend. It was supposed to only make $45-$55 million domestic. Instead, it made $61 million, boosted by a considerable increase in business from Friday to Saturday. As Warner Bros.’ domestic distribution president Jeff Goldstein told THR, “On these kind of movies that have big Fridays, you would expect to be down on Saturday. We were up 19 percent. We ended up in a fantastic place compared to where we thought we would be. The marketing came together in a huge way.”
But is $61m truly a “fantastic place”? Sure, it’s better than expected, but those expectations had already been on the extreme low end of a financially acceptable outcome. Movies which carry a $185m budget aren’t supposed to open in the $45-55m range. They more typically need to hit at least $75m to have a chance, but that’s because movies which cost that much typically come out in the summer where competition is fierce and the next blockbuster always right around the corner, leading to considerable second and third weekend drops. But Skull Island should be fine, right? After all, it grew from Friday to Saturday, beat expectations and was released outside of the summer movie season meaning it probably has the rest of the month to itself. It’s not like we’re in the middle of the craziest, most-jam packed March in Hollywood history or anything.
Yeah. About that:
Oh. Right. Beauty and the Beast, Power Rangers and Ghost in the Shell are due out over the next three weekends, and those are just the biggies. Smaller fish include Chips, Life and Boss Baby. Plus, Logan just had the best second-weekend hold of any X-Men movie since First Class, and Get Out doesn’t appear to be getting out of the top five anytime soon.
Well, that’s not awesome, at least not for Skull Island.
THR figures Skull Island “will likely need to earn $500 million globally to land in the black” meaning it will roughly need to match the 2014 performance of Godzilla ($529m worldwide), the first entry in this new monsterverse being built up by WB and Legendary. If so, Skull Island might already be screwed domestically since its $61m debut is a 34% decrease from Godzilla’s $93m debut. Plus, Godzilla was notoriously front-loaded, following its better-than-expected opening with steeper-than-expected weekend-to-weekend drops, landing at just $200m domestic when all was said and done. If that pattern repeats itself with Skull Island, which it very well could since the film currently sports the same exact CinemaScore (B+) as well as a nearly identical RottenTomatoes rating (79% vs. 78%) as Godzilla, we’re looking at a final domestic total that will be lucky to sniff $145m.
But that’s such a 2014 way of thinking. Sub-par domestic performance? Pfft. These movies are global entertainment now. Legendary Entertainment sure as shit didn’t force Jing Tian into Skull Island to appease the hicks in the flyover states. Screw domestic. Talk to me about international.
Overseas, Kong: Skull Island opened to $81.6 million from 65 markets — minus China, where it hits theaters March 24 — for a global bow of $142.6 million. It came in No. 1 almost everywhere and scored the biggest opening of all time in Vietnam ($2.2 million), where much of the movie was filmed. Skull Island‘s international bow exceeded Godzilla‘s in many markets. The U.K. led with $7.6 million (17 percent ahead of Godzilla), followed by South Korea ($7.4 million), Russia ($60 million) and Mexico ($5.6 million).
Comparatively, Godzilla’s international debut was $103m from around 75 markets, not including China and Japan. By the end of its international run it had $77m in the bank from China, $328m total, adding up to $529m worldwide.
After that, the hastily-announced Godzilla 2 was placed on the backburner as Godzilla director Gareth Ewdwards moved on to Rogue One and Legendary Entertainment went into a transitional period which first saw it leave its WB distribution deal and join Universal before being bought out by China’s Wanda conglomerate (which also owns AMC Theaters). Now, Legendary is in the business of making blockbusters (Warcraft, The Great Wall) which don’t make much of an impression here but make a killing everywhere else, especially in China (where Warcraft made $220m and Great Wall $170m). Skull Island is a break from this recent pattern for Legendary in that its domestic debut is already $15m higher than the domestic totals of both Warcraft and Great Wall. Plus, whereas both of those movies were distributed by Universal Skull Island is a WB product (Universal could have been involved as but chose not to be) as will be the case with Godzilla 2 and the planned Godzilla vs. King Kong team-up. That is, of course, if Skull Island makes enough money.
For that to happen, Skull Island needs to be huge in China in two weeks and continue to outperform Godzilla in individual foreign markets. If so, it could hit the necessary boxoffice benchmarks to allow Legendary to keep moving forward with this monsterverse thus preventing the work of Terry Russio, J. Michael Straczynski and others in the newly-hired Godzilla vs. King Kong writers room from going to waste. If not, this will hardly be the first would-be cinematic universe in the post-Avengers world to flame out after just two movies [see also: Amazing Spider-Man and its planned but abandoned Venom and Sinister Six movies].