Godzilla vs Kong becomes top-grossing movie in pandemic

Los Angeles

THE Warner Bros and Legendary film, Godzilla vs Kong, became the highest-grossing movie in North America since the start of the pandemic, giving theatres a much-needed boost after more than a year in crisis.

The film earned US$69.5 million through its second weekend, passing the level it needed to become the largest cinematic draw since March 2020, according to Boxoffice Pro. That vaulted it well past Tenet, Croods: A New Age and Wonder Woman 1984, each of which debuted last year. Godzilla made US$13.4 million in ticket sales over the past weekend.

Warner Bros now represents four of the top five grossing films domestically since the beginning of the pandemic, according to researcher Comscore. Last weekend was the second-biggest of the pandemic based on box office sales.

The film's success strengthens the economic case for reopening the 45 per cent of North American theatres that are still shut, although the industry has other hurdles to overcome.

There are few new big-budget releases for the remainder of April and May, suggesting that business will ebb during the next few weeks.

Last Friday, Paramount Pictures pushed back the release of Top Gun: Maverick to November, from its original July 2 date. The studio also delayed the next Mission: Impossible instalment to May 2022 from November.

Returning to a state where studios have confidence putting their biggest movies in theatres will take some time. Even Godzilla vs Kong was not exclusive to cinemas, as AT&T's WarnerMedia also put it out on HBO Max. And Walt Disney plans to take a similar hybrid strategy with Black Widow on July 9.

Momentum is key

"In a normal marketplace, momentum is key," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior analyst at market research firm Comscore.

"For the next many weeks - as more and more people are vaccinated - consumer confidence will grow, and more theatres will open, and this will give each successive blockbuster an even greater shot at box-office gold."

Godzilla is in its second week at the US box office, after smashing expectations by taking in US$48.5 million during its first long weekend in April. It has also been an international hit, generating US$71.6 million last weekend and marking the biggest foreign opening in China in almost 18 years.

The monster film may have been a particularly popular choice during Covid-19 because it represents what some analysts think is the future of the big screen.

With so many movies available on streaming platforms, moviegoers may prefer just to see megabudget action films in theatres.

Nobody, a thriller from Universal Pictures, took the No 2 box-office spot last weekend with US$2.7 million in domestic ticket sales, according to Comscore. The Unholy, a horror film, took the third spot with US$2.4 million. BLOOMBERG

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