‘Godzilla’ Breathes $93 Million Atomic Heat at Box Office

'Godzilla' Breathes $93 Million Atomic Heat at Box Office

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Remake of the classic monster movie stomps pasts competition, expectations with huge opening

“Godzilla” may be 60 years old, but the big lizard has never been as dominating at the box office.

The latest take on the iconic Japanese movie monster thundered to a $93.2 million opening this weekend in North America, crushing the competition and stomping past the expectations of analysts and the studio, which were for a debut in the $70 million range.

The massive opening is just under the year's-best $95 million that “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” managed in April, so we'll have to wait for Monday's final figures to see who's really on top. In any case, this a great start for “Godzilla,” an effects-laden, $160-million 3D co-production from Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. It added another $103 million from 64 foreign markets this weekend as well, the biggest international opening for any movie this year.

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It's the biggest opening ever for a “monster movie.” That a hard term to define, but it blew away the $72 million debut of “Jurassic Park: The Lost World” in 1997, which tops the list of “creature features” at Box Office Mojo. And it's the biggest May opening ever for Warner Bros., ahead of the $91.4 million that “The Matrix Reloaded” put up in 2003.

Director Gareth Edwards‘s “Godzilla” played more strongly than expected across the board, connecting with young fans drawn by the spectacle and older moviegoers for whom the rampaging reptile may have struck a nostalgic chord. Sixty percent of the audience was over 25 years old, and males made up 58 percent of the crowd.

It started with a huge $38 million Friday that was fueled by ardent fan boys, many of who turned out for early Thursday night screenings that brought in $9.3 million.

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Armed with good reviews (73 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes), a “B+” CinemaScore from first-night moviegoers and positive word of mouth from Friday's shows, “Godzilla” had a very strong Saturday. It played exceptionally well all weekend on Imax screens, which accounted for $14.1 million, or 15 percent of the grosses. That's the years's best Imax performance, ahead of the $9 million that “Captain America” took in. And receipts from 3D screenings made up 51 percent of its total.

The filmmakers made a concerted effort to stay true to the spirit of the original 1954 Japanese original, and that mobilized fans of the classic directed by Ishiro Honda, especially once the film was out.

“We approached this in an authentic and passionate way and hoped that it would translate in the film,” Legendary President and Chief Creative Officer Jon Jashni told TheWrap. “The tonal approach that Gareth undertook in rebuilding this franchise was very effectively communicated through the marketing that we and Warner Bros. collaborated on.

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“Audiences that know and love the brand are even more discriminating,” Jashni said, “and nostalgia exists in direct proportion to skepticism. If the skeptical person holding the movie to a higher standard is won over, that can create over-compensating in terms of word of mouth.”

No one at Legendary or Warner Bros. was speaking about a sequel on the record Sunday morning, but there were 93 million reasons that's all but assured. The question of how high “Godzilla” would go provided the only real suspense at the box office this weekend.

Last week's No. 1 movie “Neighbors” finished a distant second with around $26 million. That was just a 47 percent drop for the R-rated Seth Rogen-Zac Efron comedy, which is up to $91.5 million after weeks for Universal.

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The weekend's only other wide-opener, Disney's Jon Hamm baseball movie “Million Dollar Arm,” took in $10.5 million for fourth, behind “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which brought in roughly $16 million. Sony's Marvel superhero sequel is up to $172 million domestically after three weeks, and has been huge overseas and is up to $633 million globally.

Fox's “The Other Woman” was fifth with $6.3 million in its fourth weekend, which puts the comedy over $70 million domestically. Sony's faith-based “Heaven Is for Real” came in with $4.4 million for the three days, and is up to $82 million after five weeks.

“Rio 2” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” followed, with $4.4 million and $3.8 million respectively. That lifts Fox's animated musical to $118 million domestically after six weeks, and it's over $423 million worldwide. Disney's Marvel superhero sequel crossed $250 million domestically and is about to hit $700 million worldwide in its seventh week of release.

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