It has been 386 days since the last time that the weekend box office scored $50 million in total for every movie over the entire weekend, but it looks like the COVID-19 pandemic streak is finally over. Things are still far from normal, obviously — there are still hundreds of movie theaters that have not reopened and the studios are still putting the pieces together — but this weekend proved once and for all that audiences are still very interested in returning to theaters.
Godzilla vs. Kong (from director Adam Wingard) is poised to earn a whopping $48.6 million over the last 5 days, and well over $33 million over the three-day weekend. That is a remarkable number for a few reasons. First of all, it’s the biggest opening weekend (five-day or three-day) since Onward earned $39 million on the weekend of March 6th, 2020. This is doubly exceptional for a couple more reasons, namely that its predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, only earned only $47 million in its opening weekend in 2019, and that was before the pandemic. Moreover, $48 million worth of moviegoers showed up to watch Godzilla vs. Kong in theaters, despite the fact that it was also playing for free to HBO Max subscribers.
Moviegoers are clearly ready to return to theaters (even as the pandemic threatens a fourth surge), and Godzilla vs. Kong provided one of the first great excuses to do so since Tenet faltered last fall. It didn’t matter that it had been delayed a year, or that it was available to watch on our television screens and mobile devices, moviegoers wanted to see an old-fashioned blockbuster the way it was meant to be seen: On the big screen.
It didn’t hurt, either, that Adam Wingard’s movie was well received by critics (76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), and audiences were clearly overjoyed to see a movie of this ilk in theaters, too, because they gave it a 94 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and an A Cinemascore (and an A+ among those under the age of 18). Despite the pandemic, theaters probably also racked up their biggest concession sales in over a year because Godzilla vs. Kong is the kind of movie that almost requires popcorn, despite the fact that most people are still wearing masks in public.
Obviously, $48 million is short of what the movie could have made outside of a pandemic, but the performance clearly meant a lot for the industry, as it gives them hope that people are eager to return to theaters, which is good for the studios, good for the theaters, good for actors and crew members, good for ticket-sales companies, and even good for those of us who write about the box office. I’m sure there was a huge breath of relief all over Tinseltown this weekend.
Godzilla vs. Kong — as it would have during normal times — also blew everything else out of competition. Bob Odenkirk’s well-received Nobody came in a very distant second place, earning around $2.8 million to bring its ten-day total to $11.5 million. That’s actually not so bad; the first John Wick movie only earned $43 million total outside the pandemic, and it had Keanu Reeves. At a cost of only $16 million (Odenkirk is clearly cheaper than Reeves), Nobody is poised for a profit, especially after it’s made available at home, which will happen soon enough. The film will be released digitally on April 16th.
In third place was another new release this weekend, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s horror movie, The Unholy. With $2.75 million, it appears that it will come in just under Nobody. The Unholy has been saddled with bad reviews (33 percent on RT) and even the audience score is tepid (57 percent).
Fourth and fifth place belong to family films, both of which are also available to home viewers. Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, which can be rented for $30 on Disney+, eked out $2 million to bring its total to $32 million. Tom and Jerry, meanwhile, rounds out the top five with $1.2 million and $39 million total, despite also being available on HBO Max.
With moviegoers returning in droves to theaters this weekend, it’ll be interesting to see if it will inspire a continued wave of returnees next weekend, although Godzilla vs. Kong seems to have the box office mostly to itself at least until Mortal Kombat opens on April 23rd. Next weekend, however, could see some light action from Voyagers, a fairly compelling sci-fi film from director Neil Burger that stars Colin Farrell, Lily-Rose Depp, and Tye Sheridan. Unless studios decide to hurry back in the wake of Godzilla vs. Kong’s success, it will be next weekend’s only new wide opener.