Shared universes are all the rage in Hollywood these days, and just about every studio has at least one mega franchise with crossover potential. Warner Bros. is of course furthering their DC Extended Universe (which continues with Wonder Woman and Justice League this year), but they have another burgeoning series they've been building up. In conjunction with Legendary Pictures, WB is the company behind the new MonsterVerse, which combines Godzilla with King Kong. The franchise began back in 2014 with Gareth Edwards' Godzilla reboot and took the next step forward earlier this month with the premiere of Kong: Skull Island.
Released to generally favorable reviews (read ours), many felt the movie was a fun genre romp that delivered enough Kong action to make up for the thinly-written human characters. That reception helped its commercial prospects, and WB needed Skull Island to be a hit as they lead up to 2020's Godzilla vs. Kong film. As the new take on the Eighth Wonder of the World has progressed through its run, its domestic numbers are trailing behind its predecessor (Godzilla), so now we're posing the question of whether or not Skull Island can be qualified as a box office success.
The Stateside Numbers
Shortly before Skull Island opened in theaters on March 10, 2017, the opening weekend estimates had it pegged for a debut of $43.5 million in the U.S. It ended up greatly surpassing those projections, grossing an impressive $61 million in its first three days and dethroning Logan from the top spot on the charts. The overall reaction certainly gave it a nice boost, as did the star-studded ensemble that included fan-favorite actors like Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and Brie Larson. It was a far cry from the debut of Godzilla ($93.1 million), but still a solid enough start that showed viewers were interested in what Legendary has in store. The decision to include a post-credits scene that teased more monsters was a smart decision, despite the studio's initial hesitancy.
Kong held fairly well in its second weekend, dropping 54.4 percent to make $27.8 million. In all likelihood, it probably would have had stronger legs if it was positioned somewhere else on the release calendar. Coming out on March 17, Disney's Beauty and the Beast dominated the marketplace and ended up shattering box office records with a whopping $174.7 million domestic start. It was clear from the outset that nothing, not even King Kong, was a fair match for the Mouse House's latest live-action remake, and Skull Island took a bit of a hit. The film seems to be a bit front-loaded, given that it's grossed approximately $77 million Stateside since its opening weekend, with a current total of $137.9 million. Twenty days into its release, it's not going to be able to top Godzilla, which had made $178 million at the same point in its run. With The Fate of the Furious coming out soon, there's a reasonable chance Skull Island doesn't even reach $200 million in the U.S.
Competition is clearly what caused this discrepancy. A few years ago, Godzilla debuted relatively unopposed in the realm of tentpole fare. Sony's disappointing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had kicked off that summer movie season, but by the time Godzilla opened a few weeks later, it had fallen out of favor with audiences - paving the way for the well-received Godzilla to draw in sizable crowds. On the flip side, Skull Island was sandwiched between Logan and Beauty and the Beast, two films that were highly anticipated for their own reasons. Yes, it was able to beat Hugh Jackman's final turn as Wolverine, but Logan still posted a strong $38.1 million against Skull Island as it rode its waves of acclaim. If Logan had been more in the vein of X-Men Origins: Wolverine instead of being one of the most praised superhero films ever made, then Skull Island might have had a larger debut. As it stands, it was in a tricky position, but tried to make the best of it.
The International Numbers
As we've mentioned several times previously, the modern age of Hollywood is carried more by the worldwide box office than just strictly the domestic. The global markets can catapult a moderate success into bona fide blockbuster territory, so when analyzing the figures, WB is going to look at the international performance of Skull Island to determine if they have a viable property. The film sported a production budget of $185 million (not including marketing), so by the old rule of thumb, its break even point stood at $370 million. That means it needed to gross $370 million just to make its money back, and everything else is considered profit.
As of this writing, Kong has brought in $396.8 million globally, which is obviously more than enough to cover its cost. To date, the movie is roughly $26.8 million in the black, and that number will only go up as Skull Island continues its run in theaters. Unsurprisingly, the film found nice success in China (the second-largest market in the world), where it opened last week with $22.5 million just from Thursday and Friday sales. Currently, the Chinese numbers are not included on Box Office Mojo's rundown (for reasons unknown), so that $396.8 million total is actually quite larger. When just the $22.5 million is added (which again, is just from a couple of days), Skull Island's worldwide haul stands at $419.3 million, giving it a profit of $49.3 million.
Kong has actually made a majority of its money from the foreign markets and continues to do well in those regions despite receiving a healthy amount of pushback from Beauty and the Beast (which is marching towards $1 billion). It will be interesting to see how the arrival of Ghost in the Shell impacts Skull Island, since that is another PG-13 genre picture that should also do quite well internationally. Fortunately for the giant ape, Scarlett Johansson's latest vehicle doesn't debut in China and Japan until April 7, but it is now playing in most of the world. Coupled with the impending arrival of Fate of the Furious (which is always a big smash), business could start to really slow down for Kong now.
Ultimately, Skull Island can probably be classified as a moderate box office success, since it has turned a small profit in theaters and should generate more revenue via home media sales. That said, it isn't a monster hit in the way some comic book movies are, so WB may be forced to alter the franchise in some respects. Projects aren't in any danger of getting canceled, but studio executives will probably want to see if it's possible to trim the budget in any way so the next installments can be more successful. Even slicing it down from $185 million to $150 million could go a long way, since the magic number would then be $300 million, which Skull Island easily passed. As WB keeps adding to the DCEU, they've got another franchise worth continuing.
Source: Box Office Mojo
- Kong: Skull Island (2017) release date: Mar 10, 2017