How Warner Bros. and Legendary’s Monster March at the Box Office Came Together

It has been nearly 20 years since Legendary Pictures first entered into a film partnership with Warner Bros., with Christopher Nolan’s seminal 2005 film “Batman Begins.” And that partnership has yielded a monster-sized month at the box office with the success of “Dune: Part Two” and the surprisingly strong opening of “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.”

The fifth film in the MonsterVerse saga that began 10 years ago with Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” was expected to earn a relatively modest $50-55 million domestic opening this Easter weekend, a result that would have required it to leg out to turn a meaningful theatrical profit against its $135 million budget.

Instead, it exploded to an $80 million start in North America and $194 million worldwide, earning strong audience reception as it heads into an April where films like “Monkey Man” and “Civil War” will try to have breakout success, but will leave plenty of room for “The New Empire” to have a sustained theatrical run.

“We’re proud to partner with Legendary to bring the MonsterVerse to a stellar $2 billion box office benchmark, and for the support of enthusiastic fans everywhere,” Warner Bros.’ domestic distribution president Jeff Goldstein said in a statement. He attributed the film’s early success to a “brilliant marketing campaign and a date we all believed in.”

Combined, “Dune: Part Two” and “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” are on course to gross more than $400 million in North America and $1 billion around the world. Should “The New Empire” pass “Kung Fu Panda 4,” which it is on pace to do with this start, Warner Bros. and Legendary will have the two highest-grossing films of 2024 so far, and will likely keep that distinction until, at the earliest, the release of 20th Century’s “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” in May.

“I have to hand it to Warner Bros. They did an incredible job of marketing this film. It has been a long and successful partnership,” Mary Parent, longtime MonsterVerse producer and chairman of worldwide production for Legendary, told TheWrap. “The one-two punch we’ve seen this month, starting with ‘Dune’ and continuing with ‘Godzilla x Kong,’ has been nothing short of extraordinary, especially considering that these films were not always planned to be released so close together.”

Indeed, Warner and Legendary’s monster month came about in part because of outside circumstances. “Dune: Part Two” was originally supposed to come out in November 2023, but left that window due to the SAG-AFTRA strike. Warner Bros. moved to the start of this past month to allow for the film’s loaded cast to promote the film and for the film to maintain Imax support.

But Warner Bros. shifted “The New Empire,” previously set for mid-April, into the end of March in a show of confidence. The studio took a bet that the monster movie would get boosted by an Easter weekend launch, building word of mouth that would give it a longer runway through the month of April. That bet paid off, as “Godzilla x Kong” now has the fifth highest three-day opening weekend ever on an Easter weekend.

“Dune: Part Two” was able to pass the $408 million global box office run of its predecessor thanks to overwhelming audience support, critical acclaim and smart handling of “Dune: Part One” on streaming platforms like Netflix to allow curious newcomers to get caught up.

“Godzilla x Kong,” meanwhile, got some extra boost in its efforts to expand its audience beyond those who had seen “Godzilla vs. Kong” as theaters were reopening in 2021. Its closer proximity to “Dune: Part Two” helped, as the audiences who drove that film to become the year’s highest-grossing film so far got to see the trailer for “The New Empire” attached to it.

“The New Empire” also likely got some help from the flagship “Godzilla” franchise run by Toho, which last December released the critically acclaimed “Godzilla Minus One.” Riding entirely off of word-of-mouth, “Minus One” became the third-highest grossing non-English film in U.S. box office history with $56.2 million and won the Best Visual Effects Oscar, placing the King of Kaiju back in the pop culture consciousness even before Warner began its marketing for “The New Empire.”

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