2 min read.Updated: 17 Apr 2021, 04:58 PM ISTBloomberg
When the studio announced the move last year, filmmakers warned it would hurt cinema owners that were already struggling to survive the Covid-19 virus and competition from streaming services
“Godzilla vs. Kong," the monster epic from Warner Bros. and Legendary, is expected to dominate the box office for a third straight week, showing that a new movie available for streaming at home can also draw fans to theaters.
The film is expected to take in $8.7 million in weekend sales in North American theaters, according to Boxoffice Pro, adding to the roughly $70 million haul that already made the feature the biggest movie release of the pandemic. So far, “Godzilla vs. Kong" has exceeded analysts’ expectations, suggesting people are becoming comfortable with attending theaters more than a year into a global pandemic.
The performance is a major win for AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia division, which opted to release all of its 2021 movies on both HBO Max and in theaters. When the studio announced the move last year, filmmakers warned it would hurt cinema owners that were already struggling to survive the Covid-19 virus and competition from streaming services.
“Warner has played an integral role in the early transition phase as we now cautiously approach the next stages of global box office recovery," said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst for Boxoffice Pro. “The key now is to look forward."
Most other studios have been wary about putting out big releases during the pandemic. The next big-budget movie due out will be another Warner Bros. feature, “Mortal Kombat," on April 23. After that, audiences will have to wait until May 28 to see “A Quiet Place Part II" from Paramount Pictures and until summer for other highly anticipated films like Universal Pictures’ “F9," part of the “Fast and Furious" series, and Walt Disney Co.’s “Black Widow."
The decision to stream new movies the same day they come out on the big screen has posed some challenges for theaters. It’s not clear how many people are opting to watch movies at home instead of venturing out. Additionally, studio and theater executives have acknowledged that consumers no longer want to wait up to 90 days for movies to leave multiplexes and be available for home viewing.
But the combination of closings and the lack of new movies to show has worn down some of the theater owners who have resisted change. AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Officer Adam Aron said in an interview this week that attendance “quintupled" with the March 31 release of “Godzilla vs. Kong." New films are a key part of recovery for cinemas, some of which have gone out of business because of the virus.
Other, returning pictures are expected to round out the other top spots at the box office this weekend. Universal’s “Nobody," a thriller starring Bob Odenkirk that came out March, will take in an estimated $2.2 million, according to Boxoffice Pro. Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon," an animated film about a warrior girl, could take in $2 million.