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Saturday, June 1, 2019

Godzilla: King of the Box Office or King of the Box Office Bombs?

I hate math, but I love looking at the box office to see how film's perform. I've got a decent understanding of it and when I see a film that's worthy of a sequel, I tend to follow its time in theaters to see if it does well or if it doesn't. The same goes for a film that I hate (I'm looking at you, Fant4stic). Generally speaking, I can tell when a film will do well or won't. For example, it wasn't difficult to tell that the aforementioned Fant4stic wouldn't do well. It came out around the time that Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation was out and that siphoned a fair bit of money it might've made. That, plus the controversy surrounding it, didn't help.

With that said, Warner Bros’ “Monsterverse” is a different beast. The kaiju genre isn’t something that’s always appealed in the west—especially the United States. Roland Emmerich’s 1998 film “Godzilla” was far from the best way to introduce Godzilla to the average American moviegoer. However, it made a fair bit of money, but not enough to warrant a sequel. As such, the series lay dormant in America and has since aged… divisively. Some see it as a fine monster movie, but still loathe it as a Godzilla film. Others loathe it across the board.

Fast forward to when Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla film came out. While it too  was divisive (to say the least), it appealed to fans of the character and was successful enough to warrant a sequel. A sequel that took over five years to come out and while Kong: Skull Island tied into that film, that’s besides the point.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters was, in the eyes of many, poised to be a kaiju-sized success. Many suspected that Michael Doughtery (director of Trick ‘r’ Treat and Krampus) would fix what Gareth Edwards broke. Namely, the lack of kaiju action and bland human characters. While I personally liked King of the Monsters, it’s undeniably that Doughtery didn’t quite “fix” those aspects. If anything, he muddled them beneath three additional monsters and Kyle Chander; King Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra masquerading as “more monster” through the illusion that more monsters = more monster action. This, plus the jumbled plot (not helped by the D&D plot armor wearing Millie Bobby Brown whose character made me want to actually leave the theater more than once) has proven to critics and some moviegoers that expectations =/= reality. Any armchair box office analyst can throw a dart, hit a number, and say that X movie will make that much money.

However, I’m not an armchair box office analyst. I’m an armchair box office analyst who actually bothers to follow the box office and trends. So, with that said, I’m here to take a gander at how Godzilla: King of the Monsters has been performing and make my own predictions as to how it’ll perform and give my thoughts on how this’ll affect next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong and the future of the Monsterverse as a whole.

Before we start: I want to explain how my calculations were gotten. Simply put: they’re purely based off of the concept that sequels tend to follow their predecessors closely in the grossing department thanks to an established and loyal fanbase and dissenters who won't return due to disliking the predecessor. I fully understand that not all sequels operate this way, but a film like Godzilla: King of the Monsters—being an entry in a long-running franchise—has firmly established a fanbase. In the west, Godzilla’s very niche; his popularity isn’t there like a character such as Batman, Ethan Hunt, James Bond, or Peter Parker. The name Godzilla may be recognizable, but Joe Everyman isn’t likely to say, “Oh yeah, I grew up watching those films.” Rather, he’s more likely to say, “Yeah, I’ve heard of him. He’s that big dinosaur that shoots fire, right?”

With that said, allow me to go through some other necessities (in my eyes). The success of Godzilla 2014. Godzilla saw a resurgence of recognition in the public eye as a character one could identify with more ease, but the divisive nature of director Gareth Edwards’ vision, screenwriter Max Borenstein, and the story by David Callaham also severely alienated Joe Everyman from bothering with seeing it. While many Godzilla fans will argue that the human characters have always been bland and uninteresting, Joe Everyman is likely to argue back that he doesn’t want to sit through 90+ minutes of boring characters and cliche dialogue to get 5-15 minutes of monster action. Especially when Joe Everyman can go home and watch a Mission: Impossible or Avengers film and get both action and engaging characters at roughly the same runtime.

As such, it was up to King of the Monsters to fix that. This time, the screenplay was spearheaded by director Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields, who also worked on the story alongside Max Borenstein. When the first trailer dropped at San Diego Comic Con in 2018, the world was treated to more monsters and more action, along with a remix of Claire de Lune and later trailers continued to promise more and more monster action. The reception for these trailers was extraordinarily positive and was inline with how the Godzilla 2014’s trailers were received. When the review embargo was lifted on May 28th however, reception was divisive at best and negative at worst. Many critics extremely negative about the film’s muddled plot and while fans were adamant that they simply “didn’t get it”, some realized during Thursday evening screenings and on opening day that they were right. Still, some disagreed, saying that it was a fun ride that was the Godzilla film they’d always wanted as a child.

That finally brings us to the ultimate point of this blog. The grossing; how much money will King of the Monsters make? Given that I liked the film, I’d hope it’d make a lot of money so I could see more of Godzilla and the other kaiju in the future. However, reality is a cruel mistress and her rule is law. So when it was reported that King of the Monsters opened with $19.6 million domestically, reality set in like the atomic bomb that created Godzilla himself.

In other words: that’s a terrible opening day grossing for a film with a reported budget of 170–230 million dollars (excluding P&A costs; printing and advertising for the uninitiated).

King of the Monsters was originally projected to open with around 60 million dollars. Mind you, this is once again domestically. Worldwide, Godzilla was projected to open with 230–235 million, potentially more if the film overperformed in China. However, the grossing from foreign markets has largely been disappointing and with the release of Dark Phoenix and The Secret Life of Pets 2 (a film whose predecessor played a part in 2016’s Ghostbusters tanking), it’s not out of the realm of possibility that foreign markets will be attracted to a superhero film or Illumination’s latest flashy, colorful outing.

So, what about the opening weekend overall? Well, tomorrow, we’ll learn of the actual numbers. However, here are seven predictions based on seven scenarios I created, with the eighth being my own prediction.

#1: Copycat

This scenario was made by assuming that King of the Monsters repeats the 2014 film's opening weekend to a T; dropping by 16.3% from Friday and Saturday (making 16.4 million dollars) and then 29.7% from Saturday and Sunday (making 11.5 million dollars). This  leads to an opening weekend of 47.2 million dollars. For reference, the current prediction is 49 million dollars.

#2: Optimism

This scenario was created with the idea that King of the Monsters would do better than expected thanks to post word of mouth from fans swaying the average Joe into seeing it over something like Aladdin. With this idea in mind, I nixed 5% from the Friday–Saturday drop that the first film bad, bringing it down to 11.3% and having the film make 17.3 million dollars. I then nixed 10% from the Saturday–Sunday drop, which brings it down to 19.7%, and leads to the film making 17.3 million dollars and having an opening weekend of 50.7 million dollars. This would put it within the expected opening weekend range it was projected to have originally, though some projected it opening with 60–65 million.

#3: Pessimism

This is the opposite of the above scenario, only I added 5% and 10% to the 2014 film's drops. This leads to a Friday–Saturday drop of 21.3% (grossing 15.4 million dollars) and a Saturday–Sunday drop of 39.7% (grossing 9.2 million dollars) and grossing 44.2 million dollars over the weekend.

#4: Won't Get Fooled Again

This scenario was made with the idea that word of mouth would be negative and most of those on the fence would hear that it’s not much different in the way of what the issues are when compared to the 2014 film. In this scenario, the Friday–Saturday drop is 20.2% (with the film grossing 15.6 million dollars) and the Saturday–Sunday drop being 39.9% (with the film grossing 9.3 million dollars). Overall, the film makes 44.5 million dollars.

#5: I'm A Rocketman

This scenario is, admittedly, not that likely given that the audiences for King of the Monsters and Rocketman are rather different, but given the ridiculously massive success of Bohemian Rhapsody, I guess it’s possible if the stars align. In this scenario, the Elton John biopic smashes expectations and those who were contemplating seeing King of the Monsters decide that it’s gonna be a long, long time before they get to see Sir Elton John perform live. As such, they see the biopic, Rocketman. From Friday–Saturday, King of the Monsters drops 27.4% and makes 14.2 million dollars. Then, from Saturday–Sunday, it drops another 36.7% and makes 8.9 million dollars, making 42.7 million dollars over the weekend.

#6: Cosmic Power!

The Fresh Genie of Bel Air is Godzilla’s most formidable rival (take that, King Ghidorah). In this scenario, Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin decimates the King of the Monsters at the box office and keeps his crown, with King of the Monsters dropping 31.1% from Friday to Saturday, grossing 13.5 million dollars. Then, from Saturday to Sunday, it drops an additional 40.6% and grossing 8 million dollars. Overall, it makes 41.1 million dollars.

#7: Ma's Home

This one's admittedly more of a joke than a real guess. The idea is that Blumhouse's new horror-thriller starring Octavia Spencer, Ma, is so bad that people flock to see King of the Monsters to see something brainless and fun. As such, the film drops a mere 8.6% from Friday to Saturday (grossing 17.9 million dollars) and then drops 12.3% from Saturday to Sunday (grossing 15.6 million dollars). This, in total, leads to a weekend opening of 53.1 million dollars. In all likelihood, you're odds of getting struck by lightning are higher.

#8: My Guess

I gauged what I had above and tried to average out between two of then: Cosmic Power and Copycat. In the long run, King of the Monsters' biggest threat is Aladdin and being a sequel to a niche property. That, plus the nostalgia of Aladdin, is way more than enough to siphon a significant amount of money this film would've otherwise made. This leads me to suspect it'll have a drop of 19.4% from Friday to Saturday (grossing 15.7 million dollars) and then a drop of 22.5% from Saturday to Sunday (grossing 12.2 million dollars). This leads to an opening weekend of 47.4 million dollars—more than the aforementioned two, but I'm being a tad optimistic. I suspect it could be as low as 44.7 million dollars.

With all of that out of the way: what does this mean for the Monsterverse? Some may say to simply wait and see how the film does. I beg to differ. When we look back at how Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did, we see how studios ride on films performing above expectations. Sure, BvS did well. It made a sizable amount of money. King of the Monsters may too. But when looking at the grand scheme, we see that this “acceptable” opening is likely to please no one. When we factor in the second week drops, which if we go off of Godzilla's 2014 second drop would mean that this film would make less across the second weekend than it did on its opening day, we see that King of the Monsters needs to do significantly more than break even.

It needs to not lose Warner Bros millions upon millions of dollars.

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