“Godzilla,” the latest big-screen incarnation of the iconic rampaging reptile that hits theaters Friday, has a good shot at stomping to the biggest box-office opening ever for a creature feature.
Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros.’ effects-laden 3D reboot is heading for a three-day total between $65 million and $70 million range, say industry analysts. That means it will crush the weekend’s other wide opener, Disney’s Jon Hamm baseball movie “Million Dollar Arm,” and hold off last week’s top two films, the R-rated Seth Rogen-Zac Efron comedy “Neighbors” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
To storm into the record books, “Godzilla” will have to top “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” which debuted to $72 million in 1997. That doesn’t account for inflation since then, so the mark would come with an asterisk. But anything over $50 million will put it ahead of the domestic debuts of most big monster movies, including 2001’s “Jurassic Park III” ($50.7 million), 2005’s “King Kong” ($50.1 million), Roland Emmerich‘s 1998 version of “Godzilla” ($44 million) and 2008’s “Cloverfield” ($40 million).
The list above is based on the list of top creature features at Box Office Mojo, but deciding what constitutes a “monster movie” is tricky. Of course the “Transformers” movies are huge, for example, but do robots count? And if you open it up to animated movies, “Monsters University” would be way up there, too.
Legendary and Warner Bros. will be focusing on the bottom line far more than records this weekend. “Godzilla” was made for $160 million — Legendary drove the film’s development, physically produced it and bankrolled three-fourths of that — and will roll out in more than 3,800 theaters in North America as well as roughly 60 foreign markets this weekend.
It is directed by Gareth Edwards (“Monsters”), written by Max Borenstein and stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Kick Ass”), Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn and Bryan Cranston (TV’s “Breaking Bad”).
All the box-office indicators suggest “Godzilla” will breathe atomic heat at the box office.
It has been tracking between $60 million and $75 million for weeks, buoyed by a series of strong trailers that have piqued interest by gradually doling out glimpses of the creature. The reviews have been excellent for a summer popcorn movie — it’s at 88 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes — and social media and advance tickets sales are very strong.
The imagery and sound of the creature and the monster mayhem — the big lizard battles a pair of massive unidentified terrestrial organisms (MUTOs) — in particular have received high marks from most reviewers.
“Godzilla” was dominating at online ticket broker Fandango on Wednesday, where advance sales were outpacing those for last summer’s Brad Pitt zombie film “World War Z,” which opened to $66 million.
And it has 1.1 million “likes” on Facebook, more than double the number that another big Legendary-Warner Bros. sci-fi film, “Pacific Rim,” had going into its $37 million opening last summer.
There is a legal battle hanging over the release of the film, which is produced by Legendary principals Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni, Mary Parent and Brian Rogers. Legendary in January sued to dismiss three executives who were involved in acquiring the rights to the film — Dan Lin, Roy Lee and Doug Davison — and they filed a counter-claim alleging that they were unfairly cut out of the project. They say that they are entitled to share in profits from the film, a claim that will be decided in California Superior Court.
“Godzilla” will roll out in nearly every global market this weekend, with the exception of China (June 13) and Japan, where it will open on July 24. The Toho Company, which released the original “Godzilla” in Japan in 1954, sold the rights to Legendary for the update, and will distribute in that country.