The latest iteration of the Godzilla franchise took over the top spot from Aladdin and roared louder than Elton John at the weekend box office, but it still left a notably smaller footprint on North American theaters than its city-wrecking predecessors.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s sequel to 2014′s Godzilla, was brought down to size by poor reviews and middling interest from moviegoers, selling $49 million in tickets, according to studio estimates Sunday.
While still good enough for No. 1, that total was $10-15 million off industry expectations and close to half of the $93 million debut of the previous Godzilla movie.
Still, the weekend, led by one of the most classic movie monsters, brought Hollywood’s summer season into full swing. Last week’s top film, Disney’s live-action, blue-Will Smith Aladdin remake, slid to second with $42 million in its second weekend. And a rush of newcomers, including the Elton John biopic Rocketman and the Octavia Spencer-led horror film Ma, swelled theaters with a variety of options.
Dexter Fletcher’s fantastical Elton John biopic Rocketman, starring Taron Egerton, didn’t launch with the same bravado as last year’s Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. But it opened solidly in third with $25 million. The weekend’s most profitable release, by percentage, was likely the Blumhouse Production thriller Ma, which made $18.2 million against a $5 million budget.
Even with a toothless Godzilla, the weekend was up drastically — 62 percent, according to Comscore — from the same weekend last year, when the swiftly forgotten Solo was in its second weekend.
Part of the appeal of giant monster films from a studio standpoint is their popularity in Asia. This Godzilla fared best in China, opening there with $70 million. It made $130 million internationally overall.
But in Godzilla, some see a flagging franchise of unrealized potential. In its three recent blockbuster iterations going back to Gareth Edwards’ 1998 Sony release, none have drawn much praise from fans or critics. This latest one, directed by Michael Dougherty, has a 40 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Warner Bros. is developing a face-off movie between Godzilla and King Kong, who was last featured in Kong: Skull Island. That 2017 release opened with $61 million and went on to make $566 million worldwide. Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros., believes the $200-million budgeted King of the Monsters can keep drawing moviegoers to the studio’s ongoing monster franchises.
“The avid fans of Godzilla came out Thursday and Friday,” said Goldstein. “The real key for us is how broadly can we expand over the next couple weeks? Can we hold on to an interest that’s wider than the regular Godzilla fans? I think we can.”