Box Office: ‘Godzilla x Kong’ Crushes Expectations With $80 Million Debut

“Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” stomped to the top of box office charts, collecting a better-than-expected $80 million from 3,861 North American theaters in its debut.

Heading into the weekend, the monster mashup was projected to earn $50 million to $55 million to start. But “Godzilla x Kong,” which sees the two otherworldly beasts team up to save the planet, trounced those projections after benefitting from several factors, including premium large formats (accounting for 48% of ticket sales) and audience enthusiasm (it landed an “A-” CinemaScore”). Critics were less impressed by “The New Empire,” starring Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry and Dan Stevens and directed by Adam Wingard (“Godzilla vs. Kong”). It holds a 55% “rotten” average on Rotten Tomatoes.

More from Variety

It’s the second-biggest debut for Warner Bros. and Legendary’s MonsterVerse, following 2014’s “Godzilla” ($93 million) but ahead of 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island” ($61 million), 2019’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” ($47.7 million) and 2021’s “Godzilla vs. Kong” ($31 million while on HBO Max). “Godzilla x Kong” also notched the second-largest domestic opening weekend of the year, barely trailing another Warner Bros. and Legendary tentpole, “Dune: Part Two: ($82.5 million).

“Godzilla” and “Kong” movies tend to be especially huge at the international box office, and “The New Empire” is no different. It far exceeded expectations with $114 million from 64 overseas territories, bringing its global total to a massive $194 million. After three days of release, it’s already the third-highest-grossing movie of the year following “Dune: Part Two” ($626 million after five weeks of release) and “Kung Fu Panda 4” ($347 million after four weeks of release).

“The New Empire” carries a $135 million production budget, so it needs to resonate with ticket buyers across the globe to justify its mighty budget. Though it’s too soon to tell where revenues will end up, the newest installment looks primed to outgross its predecessor, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which pitted the mythic creatures against each other. That film became a pandemic-era hit with $474 million worldwide and managed to surpass 2019’s “King of the Monsters” ($387 million) even though many movie theaters were shuttered due to COVID.

“The film feels like a cinematic event,” says “Godzilla x Kong” producer Mary Parent. “It delivers in fresh ways we haven’t seen from these characters.”

The one-two punch of “Godzilla x Kong” and “Dune 2” is helping to offset the shortage of new releases in January and February. A few weeks ago, box office revenues were 20% behind the same point in 2023. But now, ticket sales are down by just 6.3%, according to Comscore.

“Every movie counts, and the importance of each film’s performance carries a lot of weight in terms of moving the needle,” says senior Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “The combination of ‘Dune,’ ‘Kung Fu Panda,’ ‘Ghostbusters’ and now ‘Godzilla’ has shown the power of a few key releases to turn the box office tide in a relatively short amount of time.”

Elsewhere at the box office, “Godzilla x Kong” took a sizable bite out of business for Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” which is targeting a similar demographic (and also coincidentally has the word “Empire” in the title). The supernatural comedy landed in a distant second place with $15.7 million from 4,345 venues, marking a steep 65% decline from its debut. After two weeks of release “Ghostbusters” has generated $73.4 million at the domestic box office and $108.5 million globally. It cost $100 million, not including hefty marketing expenses. Since theatres get to keep half of ticket sales, “Frozen Empire” requires some serious box office staying power to justify the studio’s return to the business of busting ghosts.

Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 4” remained in third place with $10 million from 3,582 theaters. So far, the animated family film has grossed $151 million in North America and more than $347 million globally. Given its $85 million production budget, “Kung Fu Panda 4” is well positioned in its theatrical run.

“Dune: Part Two” dropped to the No. 4 spot in its fifth weekend on the big screen. The sci-fi epic has collected $9.85 million over the weekend and $251 million domestically to date. It’s currently the highest-grossing movie of the year with $626 million worldwide.

Sydney Sweeney’s religious horror film “Immaculate” rounded out the top five with $3.2 million from 2,362 locations, down 41% from the prior weekend. Neon is backing the movie, which has earned $11.1 million after two weeks in theaters.

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.