The new Godzilla probably won't set any records this year, but it's safe to say director Gareth Edwards' vision of the world's most famous kaiju is already a smashing success.
Co-financed and co-produced by Legendary Pictures and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Warner Bros., Godzilla just stomped its way to a mighty $93.2 million domestic weekend debut. That's well ahead of early tracking -- which suggested a surprisingly "low" $70 million -- and stands as the second-highest U.S. debut so far in 2014. Disney (NYSE:DIS) Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier still reigns supreme after hitting $95 million in April, and Sony (NYSE:SNE) Pictures' The Amazing Spider-Man 2 now sits in third for the year given its $91.6 million opening earlier this month.
Godzilla has also collected $103 million from the crucial international market to bring its global cume to $196.2 million, so producers should have little trouble recouping the movie's estimated $160 million production budget. Legendary, for its part, covered roughly 75% of that budget.
Godzilla has plenty of room to run
So how high can Godzilla fly from here? For perspective, Disney's $170 million effort with Winter Soldier has already yielded $703.5 million in global ticket sales over the past month and a half. And though Sony spent a staggering $250 million on The Amazing Spider-Man 2, its competing superhero sequel just passed $633 million worldwide.
And yes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has technically enjoyed the strongest worldwide start so far in 2014 at $208 million, or just ahead of Disney's $203.3 million early global haul from Winter Soldier. But keep in mind Sony chose to release The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in Japan a week earlier than in the United States. Captain America 2 didn't open in Japan until two weeks after its U.S. debut, and Godzilla won't launch in Japan until mid-June and late-July, respectively.
But apart from being Godzilla's alma mater, Japan is particularly important. For example, look at Disney's Frozen, which recently demonstrated what proper execution in Japan's burgeoning movie market can achieve. Between Frozen's delayed mid-March debut in Japan and now, the animated flick collected an amazing $179.6 million in the country.
Then again, Frozen has already proven it's a league of its own with more than $1.2 billion in worldwide sales to date, but Godzilla would still be in great shape if it can perform even half as well. And considering Legendary, Time Warner, and Gareth Edwards took particular care in not dismantling Toho's 1954 creation as Sony's version did in 1998, I like its chances in Japan after seeing how its first weekend elsewhere panned out.
Keep in mind, however, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Maleficent are hitting theaters this weekend and next, respectively, so I'll be keeping a close eye on how Godzilla fares in the face of significant new big-budget competition. Still, Godzilla's early performance was good enough for Legendary and Time Warner to announce this morning a sequel is already in the works, so we certainly haven't seen the last of their 35-story-tall beast.
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Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.