Annual box office figures have been grim for America over the last two calendar years. As the pandemic spread in 2020, domestic ticket sales plunged to $2.1 billion. The average of the previous five years was $11.3 billion. Many movie theaters were shuttered. America’s largest theater chain, AMC, teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. The early part of 2021 has not been better. However, the reopening of public places, mostly due to vaccination rates that have slowed the spread of COVID-19, will help.
So far this year, domestic ticket sales have reached $480 million. No film has cracked the $100 million barrier, and most years there are a number of these. The only film that has come close is “Godzilla vs. Kong” which was released on March 31. The Warner Bros. film has grossed $93,550,658 so far, according to Box Office Mojo.
The release of the film was part of Hollywood’s major shift in movie marketing due to both COVID-19 and the highly competitive streaming business. “Godzilla vs. Kong” was released simultaneously on streaming service HBO Max and in theaters. The fact that people who subscriber to HBO Max could watch “Godzilla vs. Kong” certainly dampened theater ticket sales.
The move to release “Godzilla vs. Kong” is part of an attempt by HBO Max to catch streaming industry leaders Disney+, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. HBO Max trails far behind all three. Warner Bros. parent Warner Media, hopes that the release of major movies to streaming subscribers will help it gain the tens of millions of paid subscribers it needs to be competitive with the larger services. Theater owners have voiced objections loudly, as have some movie producers who believe their movies are much better viewed on large screens. Producers also think streaming will dent their incomes.
What has “Godzilla vs. Kong” done so well? It joins two of the world’s most successful and well-known movie franchises. The first “King Kong” was released in America in 1933. There have been a number of movies about the huge ape since then. One count puts them at 12. The first “Godzilla” movie was released in Japan in 1954 . The first movie that had both characters together was “King Kong vs. Godzilla” released in 1962.
Now that theaters have begun to open, there is a reasonable chance that “Godzilla vs. Kong” will not be the top 2021 film based on box office totals at the end of the year.