Hopes are high for this weekend's Godzilla, which carries a significant $160 million budget and a heavy ad campaign positing it as the film to beat this summer. Most Godzilla prognostications had the film opening somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million. If the latest numbers are any indication, however, that may have been too low a bar to set for the beast.
THR reports that Godzilla pulled in a strong $9.3 million in early Thursday night 8 PM and midnight showings. That's actually higher than the $8.7 million taken in by The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in its Thursday shows, and that opened to $92 million. Most think that number is not within reach, given that the younger kids and families who love Spider-Man aren't exactly equal to the fanbase for Toho's legendary ass-kicker, but Godzilla certainly seems like it's shooting for a debut in the neighborhood of $80-$85 million.
This is a huge relief for Legendary Pictures, who have presided over a number of iffy performers since The Dark Knight Rises. The Hangover Part III ended that series on a down note, Man Of Steel didn't match the more optimistic expectations, and while fans continue to hope for a Pacific Rim sequel, that film performed considerably weaker than they had hoped. Now Godzilla could conceivably TRIPLE the $37 million opening gross for Pacific Rim if, proportionally, there's another uptick in weekend business.
The truth is actually that this is expected to be a little frontloaded, due to mixed word of mouth. The film is often contemplative and quiet, and the trailers do a misleading job of making Godzilla himself into a threat, when in fact most of the damage is done by two other nasty beasts that the hero must battle. There's also a pretty bold perspective shift in the first forty minutes that proves jarring to some.
There's also the matter of a fanbase with a ceiling. The best possible scenario is that people like the new Godzilla and word spreads, making the film a hit. That word of mouth is going to be the difference between this film making $200 and $250 million domestically. Adjusting for inflation, and not counting the 3D surcharge, 1998's hated Godzilla opened to $75 million. That's not necessarily a whole lot more people checking out Toho's Finest. 1998's Godzilla cratered after its opening weekend, but percentage drops back then were not nearly as steep, on average, as they are today. Adjusted for inflation, again not counting 3D, 1998 Godzilla's final domestic gross? $231 million.
If you asked me, that number would have easily been reachable for the newer version if they had a more bumping soundtrack.