Box Office Outlook: Godzilla
Godzilla (2014) poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published May 15, 2014
The tracking has Godzilla grossing $65 - 75 million, which would match the original's 3-day with inflation.
Is Godzilla going to be the monster at the box office that some critics claim it is? The weird thing is, I see a lot of movies in theaters and the only big advertising placement Iíve seen for it was in front of a small IMAX screening at The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that was sold out, and even there, the audience showed no enthusiasm. I also saw one at one of the only crowded shows of Veronica Mars at the same multiplex and that audience also showed no enthusiasm. That was a chick flick, though, so it could be the wrong demographic. I donít watch much television so I donít know how many commercials are being played.

The trailerís been around for a while but itís never elicited a big reaction out of any crowd Iíve been with. I remember when the teaser trailer for the 1998 version came out, I was at a full house screening of the first Men in Black with 400 people at the first Thursday night screening, and the advertisement played to the high enthusiasm of Independence Day. After Godzilla smashed through the museum roof and then passed through town creating chaos, everybody in the room went crazy and when the title hit the screen, literally everybody in the room burst out cheering and applauding. The teaser made it look like it was going to be on par with Independence Day and sell out every show, and the hope was that it was as awesome as it looked in this only-made-for-the-trailer footage. Then when the real trailers were shown in following months, none of that audience enthusiasm ever came back.

Independence Day came out the 4th of July weekend of 1996 and grossed $50.2 million in 3-days but it also opened on Wednesday and so its 5-day take was a much more monstrous $96.1 million. Adjusted for todayís inflation and those 3-day and 5-day figures would be $93.8 million and $179.4 million. 1998ís version of Godzilla grossed $44.0 million in 3-days and $58.5 million in 5-days, which today would be $77.4 million and $102.9 million. Because Godzilla did not have a monstrous Wednesday gross for that period, it was clear there was a divide between the reactions to the first teaser and the eventual trailers that were released. It was also savaged by critics but I donít think an online resource like Rotten Tomatoes existed back then so hipsters didnít have easy access to mass reviews. Back then I think there was more of a concentration on newspaper articles and critics hated the movie.

Today, all someone needs is a bookmark of Rotten Tomatoes to check out what all the professionals are saying. Not everybody in the moviegoing public visits this review search engine but a lot of smart people do. Days ago, Godzilla was hovering around 85 - 90% which is considered top of the line, while on Thursday (today) it dropped down to 77%, pretty much in line with what happened with Neighbors. Very early reviews of Neighbors were rave but that kind of changed once a variety of critics weighed in. The 70% range isnít as impressive as the 80% range and usually means it will have mixed results on some.

Neighbors ended up matching the positive-but-not-rave rating of The Hangover, and The Hangover was a big crowd-pleaser with fantastic legs, and Neighbors ended up out-grossing Hangover on its opening weekend. Neighbors is getting reactions all over the map though. Some people think itís hysterical, some think itís amusing, some think itís just okay, and some think itís terrible. I peeked into a few screenings on Saturday night where it wasnít crowded and the largely black and Hispanic demographics werenít responding. At a different theater on Friday night where it was a largely white audience and a full house, it was playing great and getting big laughs throughout. The Hangover was filling and pleasing every theater audience in my area and Neighbors wasnít doing that. Days before its release, Neighbors looked like it was going to fill the Thursday night sneaks at hip locations and ended up falling short of capacity. It still enjoyed a very strong $2.6 million from Thursday night shows and on par with Tedís sneaks, which it fell short of reaching on its opening weekend.

Almost a week in advance, the new Godzilla was selling out a set of small IMAX shows for Thursday night, and Friday night IMAX shows were also filling up at the same theater. It made it seem like advance sales were going through the roof in general, but this is IMAX, and I have noticed regular shows lagged behind. By Thursday, IMAX in general was big but in general Godzilla wasnít selling any better than Neighbors was going into last weekend. I found this a little strange considering the vast difference in story and the level of the production value.

However, Thursday is a work and school day and while we are in May, most people do have schedules. People are more likely to carve out time on Friday than squeeze in something on a weekday. Friday night shows still have a ways to go before filling up which means Godzilla couldíve opened bigger than itís currently selling in advance. If it were a movie that everybody wanted to see like Independence Day, these Friday night shows wouldíve been coming much closer to selling out by now. At least in my neck of the woods, ID4 sold out all day long and you had to buy in advance to get in when you wanted. At a few theaters, people had camped out in deep anticipation and nothing like that is happening here. Even the afternoon shows on its first day had lines down the street and Godzilla wonít be doing that. Itís looking closer to something like World War Z than the ability to get close to a $100 million weekend.

The tracking for the weekend has Godzilla grossing $65 - 75 million, which would match the original's 3-day with inflation. That Godzilla did not leave a good taste on most people and the reviews on this Godzilla are leagues better. But just because a movie has stronger reviews doesnít mean everyone will show up. Not everybody follows reviews and there are quite a few people who donít know what reviewers have said. Rotten Tomatoes is more of an intellectual source where only certain cliques of people follow the commentaries closely.

An upside is that this Godzilla looks much more adult in nature than the last one, which had been too family-friendly and lighthearted for many. The casting of Matthew Broderick wasnít exactly brilliant and the screenplay was cheesy. Here, we have Bryan Cranston, who took over households with his intense portrayal on televisionís Breaking Bad. We also have David Strathairn but heís not a household name. Mature adult audiences are going to see Cranstonís credit and wonder if the role fulfills his abilities. In the trailer, he plays an insanely paranoid figure who is convinced the government has been hiding something, not a far cry from his role on television where he was insanely evading the government. The trailerís money shots remind me a little of The Day After Tomorrow but here the sensibility isnít tasteless. In that campaign, and especially online banners, Fox tried to make audiences cheer and applaud the destruction of The Statue of Liberty, leading to varied demographic reactions.

Godzilla isnít trying to offend here and just poses the what-if if something like this actually happened. Iíve read it takes a while for Godzilla to show itself and a lot of it is just build-up to game-time, and Iím curious if an earlier reveal would have upped anticipation and resulted in a much bigger opening. If the fans of the concept had been well-aware thereís plenty of action, there might be stronger business. Is it something like Jurassic Park or Independence Day which nailed the balance, or is it another Cloverfield? Those first two were huge crowd-pleasers while Cloverfield pleased some while disappointing most. The last scene of the latter was the only time you saw the monster and it wasnít good enough for the vast majority. Cloverfield presented paranoid ideas without a satisfying pay-off and didnít feature nearly enough action in between to please the masses. It was psychological without showing enough goods. Where I saw it, the audience booed when it ended, whereas at Jurassic Park and Independence Day, there were tons of cheers and applause and many people were commenting about coming back.

When World War Z opened to $66.4 million, nobody wanted to come back and these kinds of event movies are supposed to illicit a strong desire for a repeat viewing. But that movie was marketed for worldwide box office results regardless of word of mouth. It was going to take over regardless of audience reactions. It finished with $202.4 million domestically but $337.2 million internationally for a $539.6 million total. The last Godzilla finished with $136.3 million domestically and $239.6 million internationally for a $376.0 million total. Kids were basically the only fans because their sensibility was different than anybody else. This new Godzilla wants to be a very-adult and sophisticated suspenseful action film and it should have no problem sailing past that figure because most adults donít want cheesiness. But it is unknown at this time just where exactly the word of mouth is going to land.
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