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Why didn't Godzilla: King of the Monsters make more money? Now that the movie's theatrical release is winding down and the movie is out on Digital, with the Blu-ray to follow August 27, it's a good time to look back at what happened, and if Godzilla vs. Kong will fare better at the box office in 2020.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters was released at the end of May 2019 as the third movie in the MonsterVerse, following the 2014 movie Godzilla as a sequel, and also following the 2017 King Kong reboot Kong: Skull Island.
Here's how all three movies have done at the domestic and foreign box office markets, not adjusted for inflation:
As you can see, King of the Monsters made significantly less than the two previous MonsterVerse movies. Why? There are multiple reasons, including possibly the bad reviews from critics -- 41% on Rotten Tomatoes, vs 76% for Godzilla and 75% for Kong: Skull Island. But the film did have a high 83% RT audience score from viewers, and the same B+ CinemaScore as the past two MonsterVerse titles.
To me, the biggest reason of all was the insane amount of competition in early 2019. In May 2019 alone, Godzilla had to face Aladdin, John Wick 3, and Detective Pikachu, while they all faced the wrath of Avengers: Endgame, which would go on to be the highest-grossing movie of all time. There wasn't enough air in the room. I don't see 2020 having the same problem and, frankly, if I had a potential blockbuster scheduled for spring/summer 2019, I would've moved it. (Sounds like the 2020 box office could use the help.)
Forbes just offered an interesting argument for monster movie fatigue as a reason Godzilla: King of the Monsters didn't perform to expectations. The five-year gap between Godzilla and King of the Monsters was cited as a potential factor, since in that time fans got to see two Jurassic World movies, Rampage, The Meg, Pacific Rim: Uprising (which didn't do well either), and Kong: Skull Island.
You could argue Godzilla: King of the Monsters -- even with some celeb cameos -- also didn't have the star power of Kong: Skull Island's Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, and John Goodman. That's already half an Avengers movie.
If audiences are suffering from monster movie fatigue, that might be bad news for other future monster movies -- including Jurassic World 3, but also Godzilla vs. Kong. But it will depend on the competition they ultimately end up facing at the ticket window. And it'll also depend on the usual things like word-of-mouth buzz on whether the movie is any good. (I'm especially curious about Jurassic World 3, since Fallen Kingdom made a ton of money, but it wasn't exactly a great movie by anyone's standard. If you have a lame predecessor, it's similar to a lackluster lead-in for a TV show.)
There's so much competition out there in 2019. A movie doesn't even have to be bad to get overlooked this year, it just has to be either average or open in the wrong month. I guess that's an air quotes "problem" from here, to have too many options. But the longterm problem may be that studios don't invest in the kinds of movies we do want to see, we just don't have the time or money to see them in the theater right now. Will studios still spend nearly $200 million -- the reported cost to make Godzilla: King of the Monsters -- for movies just to stream on Netflix or Disney+? And how much would that dilute the experience of a film like King of the Monsters, which is gorgeous to look at just in photos on social media, never mind on the big screen?
Godzilla vs. Kong is currently scheduled for release on March 13, 2020. It was previously scheduled for dates in late May 2020. It could move to later in the year, as Warner Bros chairman Toby Emmerich warned back in June, saying he wanted to "deliver an A+ movie." Check out everything we know so far about Godzilla vs. Kong.