Box Office: 'Godzilla' Roars in Early Tracking

3:44 PM PST 04/24/2014 by Pamela McClintock

The Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. tentpole hopes to launch a studio franchise.

May tentpole Godzilla came on tracking Thursday with impressive strength and should stomp past $60 million in its North American debut. More bullish box-office observers believe it could clear $70 million.

The movie, hoping to finally launch a Hollywood studio franchise headlined by the giant lizard, could be a defining moment for Legendary Pictures, which spearheaded the $160 million reboot. Legendary co-financed 75 percent of Godzilla, with Warner Bros. putting up the rest of the money.

Godzilla opens in North American theaters on May 16. It makes its international assault at the same time. Box-office observers believe Godzilla will have even more strength overseas.

STORY: Why Godzilla Remains Pop Culture's Immortal Monster

An origins story, director Gareth Edwards' Godzilla tries to remain true to the iconic Japanese Godzilla movies made by Japan's Toho studio.

Godzilla stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn.

Warners and Legendary believe the ensemble cast, and particularly Cranston, will help to lure females. According to those with access to tracking, males are by far the most keen to see the film, but interest among females is solid.

Godzilla opens 16 years after Sony unsuccessfully tried to launch its own franchise with Roland Emmerich's Godzilla, starring Matthew Broderick.

In the U.S., the tentpole opens two weeks after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2), but only one week before X-Men: Days of Future Past (June 23).

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