Godzilla is back, and this time it looks like he could stick around. The bad taste left by the giant lizard's 1998 outing seems to have dissipated, and the King of the Monsters is returning to cinemas with near unanimous praise. Box office tracking has the film earning between $60 million and $75 million in its opening weekend at the North American box office, and the film looks to be a solid performer overseas.
The studio behind the monster, Time Warner (NYSE:TWX.DL) is without a superhero film for this calendar year, leaving it the odd one out as Disney, Sony (NYSE:SNE), and Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) debut major additions to their cinematic universe building efforts.
In a spring-to-summer release window that will see the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Guardians of the Galaxy, Warner's Godzilla could become a somewhat unexpected breakout hit. Will the season's biggest monster movie be able to compete against a swarm of superheroes and establish an ongoing cinematic series?
Will Godzilla crush Spider-Man's legs?
The close proximity between Disney's Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Sony's Amazing Spider-Man 2 appears to have put a notable dent in the latter film's domestic box office performance. The Spider-sequel is failing to provide meaningful growth over its predecessor, and could wind up underperforming the first move in the "Amazing" series. In a year that looks to be dominated by masked heroes, Godzilla could offer a rare bit of blockbuster action variety.
Lackluster word of mouth and the arrival of Godzilla at multiplexes threaten to clip the The Amazing Spider-Man 2's legs. Given how densely packed with superhero movies the last few years have been, Godzilla had a great chance to stand out and provide an experience that audiences remember.
Why will this reboot succeed when the previous attempt fizzled?
The 1998 Godzilla launched in between Deep Impact and Armageddon, two disaster movies of a different order, and wound up underperforming both apocalyptic pics at the domestic box office. This time around, Godzilla is bowing between Sony's Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past. The rebooted monster pic isn't likely to outgross either superhero actioner, but that's not the metric by which its success will be judged. An international total of $650 million would be a great start for the rebooted property.
With Days of Future Past hitting U.S. theaters just a week after Godzilla, Warner Bros.' reptilian reboot will have to make a strong impression in order to avoid precipitous drop-off. Luckily for Warner, critical response to the film has been fantastic. Boding well for the film's box office performance, Godzilla boasts one of the highest critical averages for a big-budget movie this year.
Whereas most films see their favorability decline with an increased review pool, Godzilla has accomplished the rare feat of an improved critical perception. Tracking for the film that put its opening weekend box office haul at between $60 million and $75 million was done before it became apparent that the film was a big hit with reviewers, a fact that would seem to portend well for the movie performing at the upper range of expectations.
Will Godzilla rule Asia?
While the U.S. box office is undeniably important for Godzilla, the film's success is reliant on performance in foreign markets. It'll be interesting to see how a big-budget film based on a Japanese property performs in markets like China and South Korea, where cultural aversions and tensions persist.
While giant fighting monsters might seem like a formula for success in Asia, similar films have shown that there is divergence in tastes. 2013's Pacific Rim (also from Warner) earned approximately $112 million in China, while only generating approximately $14.5 million in Japan. Godzilla may not be able to match Pacific Rim's Chinese total, but it should also perform substantially better in Japan. The picture will hit most territories this weekend, but a June 13 release in China should give it a little more breathing room.
Expect Godzilla to spawn sequels
On the precipice of Godzilla's release, it looks like the movie has the right ingredients to become an international hit and establish an ongoing franchise. Director Gareth Edwards has apparently delivered the type of Spielbergian monster movie that critics were looking for, and it's undeniable that the picture stands out from the rest of the summer box office fare.
This probably won't be the last audiences see of this take on the King of the Monsters. Scattered throughout Godzilla's runtime are hints at a possible sequel. Look for this weekend's box office numbers to make it clear that Warner has a winner on its hands.
Keith Noonan has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.