Godzilla x Kong Sequel Likely Amid MonsterVerse Box Office Boom

Jaws dropped at Legendary and Warner Bros. when Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire opened to $80 million in North America over Easter weekend despite getting shredded by critics. It wasn’t quite double what tracking services had predicted, but close enough. And by day 10, its global cume had hit an impressive $361.1 million as it stayed atop the chart.

So what next? “This is certainly an exciting result,” says Mary Parent, president of worldwide production for Josh Grode’s Legendary. Grode’s company is on an enviable winning streak, between this film and early March blockbuster Dune: Part Two.  “We are in a good position to continue the journey, but let’s see how Godzilla x Kong unfolds,” Parent says. “These are early days, but we are certainly feeling good.”

Godzilla x Kong is sure to be a hot topic this week at Cinemacon, the annual gathering of cinemas operators and Hollywood studios in Las Vegas.

While critics mostly scoffed at the movie, general audiences — and families — embraced director Adam Wingard’s vision of what would happen if Godzilla and Kong joined forces and stop the planet from being destroyed, the opposite of his 2021 film Godzilla vs. Kong, which saw the two battle.

Wingard spoke with THR in mid-March about the possibility of making a third film. “There’s always the seduction of making a trilogy out of it, and I think that there’s some untapped areas to go into,” Wingard said. “There’s also ways to continue to innovate the stylized approach to the MonsterVerse, and what’s great about the MonsterVerse is that it’s allowed so many different directors to approach it with their unique style and color palette.”

The movie’s domestic launch marked the second biggest opening of the five titles in Legendary and Warner Bros.’ MonsterVerse series, which debuted in 2014 with Godzilla. Any studio would give their eyeteeth for that sort of surge at a time when franchise fatigue is rampant. Just the week before, Ghostbusters: The Frozen Empire opened to $45 million, only $1 million ahead of 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which faced challenges because of the pandemic. Godzilla vs. Kong, released day and date to HBO Max amid the pandemic, launched to $48.5 million over five days, which was considered a strong start considering.

Godzilla x Kong is widely expected to become the top-grossing film in the franchise domestically (the current record-holder is Godzilla with $200.6 million). Box office insiders believe the new pic will get to $230 million domestically and north of $500 million globally, but it remains to be seen whether it can set a new MonsterVerse record and pass the $568 million grossed by 2017’s Kong: Skull Island.

“Obviously, I wouldn’t make this decision until we see how The New Empire performs at the box office, but I would definitely have some interest in doing another one of these,” Wingard told THR last month. “There’s a way to continue to innovate, and as a director, it would be exciting because I would take an even different approach next time. But regardless of that, yeah, there’s a whole lot of potential, and hopefully, there’s going to be demand.”

The film — starring Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry and Dan Stevens — succeeding in appealing to core fans and in luring new, younger generations. Warner Bros. domestic president of production Jeff Goldstein says attendance was spread out across every part of the day, and families also turned out in greater numbers this time. “It’s unusual for any movie that’s the fourth or fifth sequel to do this kind of business. In the past Godzilla drew a more general audience. This was a spectacular movie, a spectacular marketing campaign and a spectacular date,” says Goldstein.

Adds Parent, “everyone made this film out of love. And we spent less on this movie than any of the other film.”

That’s another titillating tidbit, considering production costs usually rise, not go down. The New Empire cost a net $135 million, compared to north of $150-$175 million net for other installments.

Hollywood’s latest Godzilla franchise is also growing overseas. The MonsterVerse has always done well in Latin America and Asia, where Godzilla x Kong has earned north of $92 million in China. (Legendary East is handling the movie in the Middle Kingdom).

Warners and Legendary got an early Easter presents of sorts when Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire decided to get a jump on Easter and moved up its release one week from March 29 to March 22. The New Empire quickly changed course and hopped onto Easter weekend, where it had not trouble finding many more eggs than expected. Says Parent, “I think these characters have permeated the culture.”

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