With superhero fever cooled down for about a week until Disney/Fox’s Dark Phoenix, the world is primed for a big spectacle, shifting interest to monsters, and Elton John.
Legendary builds out of its Japanese-classic beasts inspired franchise with its third installment Godzilla: King of the Monsters in which the green, continually irate reptile encounters more large animal enemies like himself, i.e. Mothra, Rodan, and the three-headed King Ghidorah without any concern for the greater Earth, its environment or population.
This production, which we hear cost $170M before P&A, will be completely dependent on overseas should it emerge into the black, and all in Godzilla and friends should see an estimated worldwide opening of $230M-235M, which by the way, stomps on Aladdin‘s $213.5M global take-off last weekend, and the global beginnings of Legendary’s 2014 redux Godzilla ($196M unadjusted for inflation and currency exchange rates) and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island ($146.1M).
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Godzilla: King of the Monsters will look for B.O. crowns in 75 offshore markets (sans Spain) including Japan and China for an overseas opening of $180M. How low or high that numbers goes is contingent on the amount of fire coming out of China.
U.S./Canada opening range for this film from Trick ‘r Treat horror director Michael Dougherty is in the $50M-$55M, but reviews at 49% Rotten off 68 reviews are nowhere near as strong as Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island (both 75% certified fresh), and if the Tomatoes rating drops in the 20%-tile range, we’re told, so will the opening prospects for this film. King of the Monsters is leaning toward men, with similar awareness, but lower enthusiasm stateside, than Skull Island. King of the Monsters starts previews at 4 p.m. Thursday at 3,600 locations and will increase to 4,100 by Friday playing in all formats, (Imax, Dolby, 4DX, PLF, 3D, etc.).
That said, for the first time this summer since Avengers: Endgame opened, counter-programming will finally work at the box office with Paramount/Marv Film’s Elton John biopic Rocketman fresh from its Cannes premiere hitting $25M in U.S. Canada at an estimated 3,600, $45M+ worldwide, and Universal/Blumhouse’s $5M Octavia Spencer thriller Ma eyeing $20M domestic or far more at 2,700 theaters. Thursday previews start at 7PM for both films. Ma debuts day-and-date with North America in 36 international markets, including Brazil, Germany, Mexico and the U.K. & Ireland, with additional territories rolling out through the summer.
Why is counterprogramming finally poised to work this weekend? Because their studios are positioning them in the marketplace as events, and not also-rans. But even more than that: Inherently their largely fresh, fun titles. Rocketman puts a Fellini-esque, Andrew Lloyd Webber-like spin on the rock n’ roll warts-all biopic which tells the story of John in a way that no other music pic has in the past, i.e. Bohemian Rhapsody, The Doors, Ray, etc. Everyone has partied with that person in college or high school who is just too for the crowd and shouldn’t be there. Ma plays takes that set-up and plays off its dark side.
Critics love both Rocketman at 91% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, while Ma hopes to smack its 57% RT score in the face. The R-rated Rocketman is looking at pulling in the over 45 John fan crowd stateside, while Ma, also R-rated, is banking on Females 17-34, African Americans and Hispanic audiences. It’s expected that King of the Monsters and Rocketman won’t steal these demos.
King of the Monsters could spike as high as $200M overseas, should China go nuclear. Legendary East is completely behind King of the Monsters in the Middle Kingdom and the biggest pushes abroad for the walking alligator was in China and Japan. Though we don’t have like-for-like current rate comps, Skull Island did about $160M and Godzilla did roughly $140M in their overseas launches.
In China, the previous Godzilla opened to about $37M in the Middle Kingdom and finaled at $78M there (to demonstrate how much the market has grown since then, an old WB note from 2014 touted a $10.9M Friday opening day on 9,000 screens for the studio’s biggest debut ever — how times have changed). The well-reviewed Skull Island bowed to about $72M (unadjusted) in China and we are hearing estimates in the $75M-$90M opening range for this big guy this weekend. Anticipation is high, but the movie has to be good to propel it through the weekend. Previews last Saturday yielded about $2.5M with an early 9 score from Maoyan, though the Douban number is a poorly 6.8. Working in its favor is a highly international cast that includes Chinese star Zhang Ziyi and Japan’s Ken Watanabe.
Japan, which was also the focus of WB’s promotion and where the movie is handled by Toho, is not expected to react with the typical disdain for U.S. remakes of its IP. Enthusiasm, we hear, is high and Toho has been pushing the hell out of it. The last Godzilla had its second-best showing in Japan with about a $30M final.
We expect Latin America and South East Asia to jam on the monsters, but there is one market particularly where King of the Monsters will have to settle for second-best as Bong Joon-ho’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Parasite is primed to suck the life out of the Korean box office this weekend. In all fairness, monster movies are not high on the local audience register and there is no way WB could have predicted the fervor for Parasite, read the hero’s welcome that Bong received upon returning from Cannes, not to mention a massive disparate between pre-sales for both films. Parasite is looking at a potential $10M opening. It doesn’t bow until Thursday while King of the Monsters took advantage of today’s Wednesday culture holiday with about $531K.
Rocketman trotted down the Yellow Brick road last weekend in the UK last weekend with $6.8M — including Sunday as its best of the 3-day during great weather and a competitive landscape. In Paris today, the Dexter Fletcher-directed rock pic beat King of the Monsters during its first screenings. Rocketman blasts off in 39 Paramount markets this session where Europe is expected to be the key, as well as Scandinavia which leans into musicals.
This is an R-rated movie that many distribution folk warn should not be comped to Bohemian Rhapsody (we’ll just see about that because Bohemian Rhapsody did bow to unpredictable $51M at the domestic B.O., crushing its $35M tracking). The notion is that Rocketman‘s hard R for its gay sex scenes might throw off business in the flyover states versus the PG-13 angle of Bohemian Rhapsody, which Fletcher finished directing after Bryan Singer’s firing. Some are debating the multi-generational appeal between Queen and Elton John. Again, let’s see about that as John is one of the best-selling rock performers in the world with 300M-plus records sales, versus Queen’s 170M-200M.
Also of concern with Rocketman overseas is his multiple: There is likely to be some difficulty in the more conservative South East Asian or Latin American markets (not to mention Russia). But the audience for this type of film, particularly after recent musical successes, exists. As for China, we understand Paramount is eyeing an art-house release akin to Bo Rhap. Cuts would need to be made to appease the censors, but we also hear from the ground that John is not that well-well-known locally, so this shouldn’t necessarily factor towards the ultimate overseas number.
Taron Egerton (who sublimely portrays John) and Fletcher performed at the Carlton Beach following the Cannes premiere (as a duo the pic’s title song, and John alone performed “I’m Still Standing”, a memorable moment as he shot the single’s music video at the Carlton). They were at a South Korea junket last week, and went to Australia the next day. Korea doesn’t open until June 6, but it is a musical-loving market that has sophisticated tastes and Rocketman should be expected to perform very well there. Japan goes August 23.
That John has been on tour worldwide is a boost, plus the soundtrack release last week after that huge Cannes premiere. Ultimately, Rocketman ends up being a musical inside of a biopic and given the heft of musicals lately, we see long legs ahead — kind of like those floating at the Troubadour…
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