Godzilla was king of the box office this weekend, but it felt more like an interim position for the legendary monster, no matter how “benevolent.” Early reports on Friday put the big lizard in the low 60s for the weekend. But as the dust settled on the rainy CGI, that number came down significantly, and it certainly spells trouble for the Warner Bros. franchise.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters carried a reported production budget of $200 million. Whenever you see a number like that, you can expect that the film is going to need to gross somewhere in the $550-600 million range just to break even. Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla reboot opened to a terrific $93 million, but then had the worst final multiple of that entire summer (2.15) which just barely got the film over $200 million. The total gross for that $160 million production was $529 million, translating into a minor success. In 2017 the $185 million production of Kong: Skull Island opened to $61 million, grossed $168 million domestic and $566 million globally. Another minor success, and another potential crisis averted. That may not be the case going forward.
A $63 million opening for the King would have already been just marginally optimistic by barely beating Skull Island’s March 2017 opening. Instead it posted the second weakest opening for a Thursday preview start of over $6 million (Paranormal Activity 2 had a $40.6 million start after the same $6.3 million Thursday as Godzilla). A drop from opening day that quickly amounted to just $49 million (just a little over half of the 2014 opening) spells trouble for WB, considering that they have already committed to Godzilla vs. Kong for March 2020. That may draw more interest, given the two titans in the title, but how quick are audiences going to want to continue going with this franchise if they are in league with critics who scored the film just a 39% on the Tomatometer? WB is hoping that the $70 million increase in international sales from Godzilla to Skull Island will continue to go north with King of the Monsters — so far it has made an additional $130 million overseas — except domestically, we could be looking at a Van Helsing ($51.7 million opening / $120.1 million finish) or Prometheus ($51 / $126.7) situation in a year when only two American productions (Endgame & Captain Marvel) have surpassed $360 million overseas.
The two other big releases of the weekend are in much better shape than Godzilla. Paramount’s Rocketman, at a cost of $40 million, is riding a bit of the Bohemian Rhapsody wave with a $25 million opening. That is better than the $22.3 million Walk the Line started with in November 2005, though the $119.5 million the Johnny Cash biopic finished with was helped by its award season push. Still, it’s a solid start for the 90%-scored Elton John film that, along with international numbers, should push the film into a decent profit for the studio.
The bad news for Universal’s Ma is that, despite having a stronger Thursday start with $1.3 million, it opened to slightly less than Blumhouse’s Ouija (10% / $911,000 / $19.8 million) and Truth or Dare (16% / $750,000 / $18.6 million) with $18.2 million. The good news is, who cares, when it only cost $5 million and a film starring Octavia Spencer opened to $18 million? The dropoff is likely to be steep enough to keep the 62% Fresh film from grossing over $50 million, but again, the film is going to be well into profit by the time audiences stop showing up.
Looks like audiences seem to enjoy Aladdin, as it did something no other $100+ million Memorial Day weekend grosser has ever done. The live-action Disney remake had a second weekend drop of less than 55%. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the only film on that list to pull off a drop less than 60%, and if that estimate holds, Aladdin will have the smallest drop at the top of that holiday list. At $186 million domestic, Aladdin now has the third best 10-day gross for a Memorial Day release, pulling ahead of X-Men: The Last Stand and Fast & Furious 6, which puts its final gross somewhere between $239-286 million in North America. Like Godzilla though, it is eyeing that half-billion number and with $446 million in the bank, and Aladdin is looking like another winner for Disney. On the flipside, the $150 million Pokemon Detective Pikachu is looking for help to get into the black with only $368 million worldwide to date.
As for last week’s controversy over Annapurna’s Booksmart, it can claim at least one victory this weekend. The 47% drop is certainly not it, but leapfrogging Sony/Screen Gems’ Brightburn is. Olivia Wilde’s film is still only going to earn barely over $20 million total, but it will not be saddled with the third-largest second weekend drop of the year that Evil Superman had. Losing 69% of its audience from last weekend puts the film behind only Replicas and The Beach Bum among wide release drops in 2019. Though, again, at a cost of just $6 million, Brightburn is hardly a disaster. And no, a platform release would not have helped it either.
Finally checking on the two big success stories in the Top Ten, we have John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum falling 58% in its third weekend, but with nearly $125 million domestic, it is forging a path to around $150 million — more than the first two films combined. Parabellum has made over $221 million globally to date. Then there is Avengers: Endgame, which has dropped out of the Top Five and is slowing down, but earlier this week, it became just the second film to pass $800 million domestic and is now the second film to pass the $2.7 billion line worldwide. It is now only $75 million away from beating Avatar’s all-time record, but has dropped down the all-time weekend lists significantly recently. Looking at films that have grossed between $7-8 million in their sixth weekend (Endgame grossed $7.8 million), the average that they have left in the tank is between $20-30 million. Then, with its foreign totals falling from $47 million down to $17 million last week, I think we can expect one last marketing push as it spends just two more weeks in the Top Ten before dropping out.
Back in 2018, the first weekend of June did not offer much challenge to Solo: A Star Wars Story or Deadpool 2, which stuck in the #1 & #2 slots. The Shailene Woodley survival tale, Adrift, finished third with $11.6 million. Leigh Whannell’s sci-fi action film, Upgrade, placed sixth with $4.67 million and the Jackass team’s abandoned Action Point ended up ninth with just $2.39 million. Deadpool 2 cracked the $250 million line while Solo was just behind $150 million. The Top Ten films grossed just $97.05 million and averaged 54.9% on the Tomatometer. This year’s Top Ten grossed an estimated $167.1 Million and averaged 66.4%.
Illumination plans to takeover the family market for a couple of weeks with The Secret Life of Pets 2 before Disney reclaims it for the rest of the summer. The sequel to the highest-grossing domestic film ever for the animation studio is hoping to pull in a fraction of that success before Toy Story 4 and The Lion King keep families busy. For the comic book fans, the oft-delayed Dark Phoenix finally makes its way into theaters. Originally scheduled for March 2018 and then February 2019, Simon Kinberg’s troubled production could become the lowest-grossing film in the X-Men series. Finally there is Late Night with Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling (who also wrote the script.) This was the first of Amazon Studios’ big pickups at Sundance this year to the tune of $12 million and they are hoping it will find the same audience that The Big Sick did back in 2017.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]