A still image from Warner Bros. “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
Source: Warner Bros.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” is on its way to a monster opening weekend at the Chinese box office. This is welcome news for an industry ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to initial estimates, the film, in which two of the cinema’s most famous monsters compete against each other, secured around US $ 21.5 million on the country’s opening day.
The sequel is currently running just before its predecessor “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”, which brought in around 18 million US dollars on its first day of cinema in China in 2019. Ultimately, $ 66.7 million was raised for the entire weekend.
The film will be released internationally this weekend, but will be available in North American theaters and on HBO Max on March 31st. “Godzilla vs. Kong” will be on the streaming service for 31 days after its release and then switch to premium video by demand.
“The release of this film is very welcome news for the film industry, even if the domestic streaming element is in the game,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com. “Overall, the Asian markets were strong drivers of the franchise’s box office expertise, with China alone contributing around a third of global revenues to ‘Kong: Skull Island’ and ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’.”
At the beginning of the weekend, analysts were optimistic that Godzilla vs. Kong could deliver strong results in China. After all, the country is currently the leading box office manager for ticket sales in 2021, and has been instrumental in driving ticket sales for the latest Godzilla and King Kong films.
Strong ticket sales in China
Between January 1 and March 21, China’s box office made $ 2.64 billion in ticket sales, most of all territories, according to Comscore.
By comparison, Japan, the second largest cash collector, made just $ 292.6 million in ticket sales in the first three months of the year. The domestic box office, which ranks third, has just under $ 200 million in ticket sales.
Domestically, the film industry has been hard hit by the pandemic, leading to long-term closings of major theaters and the postponement of blockbuster films. Only recently, theaters in key cities like Los Angeles and New York City received local reopening permits.
With movie theaters now open and a steady surge in vaccinations, the industry is hoping box offices will rebound in the US and Canada.
“With much of the world waiting for theaters to reopen more stably and for vaccine implementation to further boost consumer sentiment, the film’s current presence in Chinese cinemas is one of the most important steps to take in the long-term industry global upswing, “said Robbin.
The Chinese box office has accelerated over the past decade, threatening to overtake North America as the highest-earning area in the world. In 2012, China had ticket sales of just $ 2.7 billion. By 2019, that number was $ 9.2 billion, just two billion behind North America.
Because of the pandemic, China overtook North America last year, raising $ 3.1 billion, compared to $ 2.25 billion domestically.
China’s strong ticket sales in 2021 can be attributed in particular to the fact that more theaters are open, the audience capacity is higher, and more new films are being released.
While theaters in the US and Canada are 25% to 50% full, many theaters in China are allowed to open at 75%. This enables them to generate a significantly higher amount every weekend at the box office.
“What the Chinese market is telling me is not necessarily that it is outperforming, but it shows the performance that an open film market should be,” said Josh Grode, CEO of Legendary. “It’s a strong sign around the world that people really enjoy going to the movies and enjoying a social experience.”
Legendary co-produced “Godzilla vs. Kong” alongside Warner Bros. and has distribution rights in China.
“There is something to be said about the shared experience.” Said Grode. “Go inside, let the lights go out, scream and shout and be entertained and fed on the energy of the person next to you.”
A monster showdown
Audiences in China are also leaning towards premium ticketing for upgraded seating and screens that cost more. IMAX, for example, has a massive presence in China and continues to increase the number of screens operated in the region.
When Godzilla hit theaters in 2014, IMAX had fewer than 150 screens in China. Now that Godzilla vs. Kong is out there are around 700 screens.
“There’s a big appetite for the right film and a special appetite for premium,” said Richard Gelfond, CEO of IMAX. “You want to see something very special.”
Godzilla and King Kong fight in Warner Bros.’s “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
Source: Warner Bros.
Hollywood action films tend to draw large crowds to Chinese theaters and often make up a significant portion of ticket sales, especially in recent years.
Looking at “Godzilla” from 2014, domestic ticket sales reached $ 200.6 million, or about 39% of the film’s total worldwide. Ticket sales in China were under $ 80 million, or 15%.
Fast forward to 2019 when Godzilla: King of the Monsters was released, China accounted for 36% of the movie’s global box officer at $ 137.6 million, and North America accounted for 29% with ticket sales of 110, $ 5 million.
“The legendary monster film genre has had a special resonance in the international market for decades,” said Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at Comscore. “China, in particular, has been an incredibly important source of revenue and fan-based enthusiasm for the franchise and has been appropriately at the center of the marketing and sales effort for the film.”
“There’s no denying that the sheer size and scale of these two larger-than-life characters makes it necessary to see the film best on the largest screen possible,” he said.