How Two Monsters Saved Movies: Godzilla Vs. Kong Makes $300 Million

During the pandemic, no industry was hit harder than movie theaters. Known for their close proximity and confined spaces, they become one of the first institutions to be forced to close during the changing policies. AMC attempted to adjust to the situation, offering exclusive theaters that could be rented out to small groups of patrons still wanting the experience. Even a few directors stepped up, including Christopher Nolan, who came out in support of theaters and released films to salvage the situation.

But 2021 was slated to release some of the most popular and highly anticipated films of the decade, hoping to usher in a new era of the theater. With increased hype around films like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Eternals from the Marvel Universe along with critically-acclaimed releases like No Time to Die and Mission: Impossible 7, it was still a risky endeavor, with no one knowing for certain if movie theaters would come back at all, at least in the way we knew them as a cultural hub of entertainment.

Then in late March of 2021, the first big budget blockbuster hit the theaters in more than a year, a monster movie titled Godzilla Vs. Kong. Despite the waning interest and uncertainty, these two monsters crushed the box office (and HBO Max), earning over $300 million worldwide and solidified the existence of theaters for at least another decade. So how did these two iconic monsters overcome the odds and reign in a new era of movie going experience? Let’s take a look at the iconic history and promising future of the franchises.

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Gigantic Origins

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King Kong was first released in March of 1933 and starred Fay Wray as the timeless Ann Darrow. It was an instant iconic hit with groundbreaking special effects that caused certain moviegoers to “pass out from dread”. The stop-motion effects featured in the film were animated and attributed to iconic innovator Willis O’Brien who went on to develop some of the most groundbreaking visual effects of the time including for The Lost World and Mighty Joe Young.

The original film had created a new genre for the blockbuster, the monster movie, and the effects themselves ushered in a whole new genre of film that carried on until the release of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, which made the leap from stop-motion to more mechanical and digitally created effects.

The film’s franchise has continued to succeed financially, with the latest release Kong: Skull Island, earning over $560 million world-wide at the box office. The 2005 remake starring Jack Black and Naomi Watts also earned over $560 million world-wide, becoming the fourth highest-grossing film in Universal Pictures history.

Godzilla, originally created in Japan under the Toho franchise, relied on the same special effects that King Kong had used. The film succeeded as a franchise early on, earning over $1.6 million in 1954. The Godzilla franchise has proved itself as a successful series in America as well. In 1956 an Americanized version of the film was edited and released in America, earning over $2 million at the box office. The film had inspired several other majorly successful blockbusters as well including the 1998 adaption by Roland Emmerich and Godzilla: King of Monsters in 2019.

Beyond the film being an American success story, the franchise also performs very well overseas. Godzilla and the MonsterVerse is now a billion dollar empire. When the 2014 remake was released, it made more overseas than in America, earning over $104 million opening weekend in its foreign markets. The Godzilla franchise is now a staple all over the world, and it comes to no surprise that when these monsters were finally able to face off, their battle became a successful hit.

Crushing the Box Office

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With several highly anticipated films set to be released in 2021, no one could predict whether moviegoers would feel comfortable venturing into the darkness of theaters again. So they approached it from a hybrid philosophy, including both theaters and the streaming HBO Max service in their releases.

When Tom & Jerry was released in February of 2021, the outcome looked bleak, having made only $13 million its opening weekend. But Legendary’s franchise was willing to put it all on the line. Slated as a sequel to the recently successful Godzilla, King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island, both of which made over $380 million worldwide, the anticipation for the film generated momentous hype, resulting in headlines, social media brackets, and consistent conversation of which monster would win.

The viral marketing that accompanied the release of the film helped it generate over $50 million during its US debut and over $70 million during its China debut. With the uncertainty of the future of movie theaters at risk, the successful opening weekend not only made the film the highest grossing of the entire pandemic, but it also shattered several record pre-pandemic as well, beating out the overall opening weekend gross of contemporary films like Punisher: War Zone and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

The Future of Theaters

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The film has shown no signs of slowing down in terms of its success and overall gross. During the following weeks, the film made an additional $200 million, showcasing itself as the film that could bring audiences back into theaters. And now with the comfort level of audience goers only increasing, it is expected that films such as Mission: Impossible 7 and Spider-Man: No Way Home that will be released later this year will also outperform original expectations.

So. what lies ahead for these two monsters? Legendary’s deal with the Toho franchise who owns the rights to Godzilla expired in 2020, leaving the future of the MonsterVerse uncertain. This is the 36th film in the Godzilla franchise and the 12th film in the King Kong franchise, making both films a legacy in moviemaking. The film’s success and demonstration of the willingness of the audience to get back to the theater may also increase the odds of a sequel or an additional film for each franchise.

With what seemed like a bleak future ahead for the theater, the two monsters, despite their division, united together, much like in the film, to take on an even bigger enemy than themselves, the pandemic. What resulted was the destruction and annihilation of the dark cloud that the pandemic cast over the entire film industry and the two legendary creatures, regardless of who you think took the win in the film, both came out on top.

READ NEXT: The 10 Highest Grossing Monster Movies Of All Time, Ranked

Sources: Forbes, IMDb, NYDailyNews, Deadline, Decider, CinemaBlend, TheGuardian, RollingStone, InsideHook, BoxOfficeMojo, IGN, Variety, CNBC

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