‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’: Inside a Fading Franchise

Rebecca Rubin

Godzilla: King of the Monsters” didn’t have a roar quite as deafening as its franchise predecessors. The third entry in Warner Bros. and Legendary’s MonsterVerse opened with a middling $49 million at the domestic box office, a start well below 2014’s “Godzilla” ($93 million) and 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island” ($61 million).

Like its series brethren, Godzilla’s umpteenth return to the big screen had a more promising start overseas, where it debuted with $130 million. Even so, that’s a potentially problematic drop in ticket sales for a movie that cost roughly $200 million to make. It also likely required a marketing spend in excess of $100 million.

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“You can’t make an epic monster movie without spending some money,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore. “The fact that it earned less than the previous films may be an indicator that some creative risks or a different perspective on the genre could be needed to reinvigorate it and keep it relevant.”

Those diminishing returns are troubling given that these movies are only getting more expensive to make. That should concern Warner Bros. and Legendary as the studios ramp up production on “Godzilla vs. Kong,” a sequel to “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and “Kong: Skull Island.” The match-up between the otherworldly beasts is slated to be released on March 13, 2020.

“As much as they are connected and part of a MonsterVerse, they all rise and fall on their own,” Dergarabedian said. “If the trailer is killer, the marketing is great, and the timing is right, [“Godzilla vs. Kong”] could be bigger. You just never know. You can have an ebb and flow, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up on a franchise.”

However, the latest installment in the Godzilla series didn’t extend its appeal beyond its male-driven fanbase. Boys and men accounted for 76% of opening weekend moviegoers, with 59% of that group clocking in over the age of 25. Studios want franchises to grow, or at least maintain, their audience over the course of new installments. It’s never a good sign when crowds dramatically shrink after only three iterations.

As popcorn season heats up, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution, Jeff Goldstein, says it’s a “challenge and goal” for new audiences to find “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” “The movie is dependent on broadening beyond just the fanbase,” he said.

Mediocre reviews and a lackluster B+ CinemaScore suggest “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” might not be able to survive long during an especially competitive summer season. If “Godzilla” isn’t able to pull in crowds beyond its core demographic, theater owners could bump showtimes to make room for upcoming blockbuster-hopefuls like “X-Men” installment “Dark Phoenix,” “Men in Black: International” with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, Samuel L. Jackson’s “Shaft” sequel, and “Toy Story 4,” all of which all hitting theaters this month.

“This marketplace seems to be fueled by your classic summer movies,” Dergarabedian said. “It’s not just about the reviews right now. It’s the perception of these movies being multiplex worthy in the summer.”

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