Box Office Preview: 'Godzilla vs. Kong' to Test Revival of Hollywood Tentpoles

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The Legendary and Warner Bros. is already an early hit overseas, where it debuted to a pandemic-best $123 million last weekend.

After the worst year in history for the box office amid the coronavirus pandemic, Godzilla vs. Kong hopes to return Hollywood on the path of being able to release big-budget studio tentpoles without facing economic disaster.

Legendary's monster mashup debuts domestically on Wednesday in more than 3,000-plus theaters and 6,000-plus screens, a pandemic record as more and more indoor cinemas turn on the lights. More than 94 percent of the U.S. marketplace is now in play, but only 30 percent of Canada, according to Warner Bros. And there are already more than 10,000 private watch parties booked, likewise a record for the pandemic, says Warners.

At the same time, many cinemas have limited capacity, including in Los Angeles and New York City. On Tuesday, Los Angeles was officially cleared to the Orange Tier, however, meaning theaters can up capacity from 25 to 50 percent in the coming days.

Legendary and its partner Warner Bros. already scored a major victory last weekend when the monster mashup debuted to a stellar $123 million at the foreign box office, the best opening for a Hollywood film since the COVID-19 crisis began. That included $70 million-plus in China.

To date, the the best three-day launch of the pandemic in North America belongs to Warners' Wonder Woman 1984 ($16.7 million), which opened over Christmas during a second surge of COVID-19 cases that prompted a wave of theater reclosures, while Los Angeles and New York City theaters still hadn't reopened at all.

Like Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla vs. Kong is debuting simultaneously on HBO Max.

Analysts believe Godzilla vs. Kong has a shot at crossing $30 million for the five days in North America, which would be a huge boost for the film and exhibition business as more theaters reopen and the appetite for moviegoing is tested. While that's not close to what a big-budget pic would hope to make in normal times, it would be a significant improvement.

"I don’t expect to see anything close to China box office numbers, but I think we should hopefully see a decent step up in North America from other recent Hollywood releases," says Wall Street analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners.

Separately on Tuesday, Warner Bros. announced it is pushing back the release of Mortal Kombat by one week from April 16 to April 23. Insiders say it gives the movie more breathing room from Godzilla, including more access to premium venues. Also, cinemas are expected to be able to increase capacity as each week passes

March 30, 2:45 p.m. Updated with Mortal Kombat move.