As the pandemic continues around the world, Warner Bros. continues to release all its major films simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters. Wonder Woman 1984 began this trend in December, and it is set to end with The Batman in 2022, being the first DC film since Birds of Prey to drop exclusively in theaters.
Zack Snyder's Justice League was the one exception to this rule, as the director's long-awaited cut of the 2017 superhero team-up came exclusively to the streaming service.
With several weeks having passed since the release, attention has turned to Warner Bros.' latest release, Godzilla vs. Kong. The monstrous face-off acts as a sequel to both Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Kong: Skull Island.
As theaters begin to reopen across the U.S. and the rest of the world, the year of theatrical delays may finally be coming to an end as moviegoers flock back to screens. However, some cautious fans still continue to enjoy the latest cinematic offerings from the comfort of their own home.
The recent HBO Max release of Godzilla vs. Kong has led to many comparisons with the service's previous offerings. The initial viewing figures have surpassed both DC's latest streaming releases, Zack Snyder's Justice League and Wonder Woman 1984.
GODZILLA VS. KONG LEAPS OVER DC BLOCKBUSTERS
According to HBO Max, Godzilla vs. Kong totaled more viewers in its first four days than any other film or show since the service released last May. Warner Bros. didn't provide any specific viewing figures but confirmed the simultaneous streaming and theatrical release fetched the record-breaking drop.
The newly-established record means the film has surpassed the debuts of DC's most recent releases on the service, Zack Snyder's Justice League and Wonder Woman 1984.
Meanwhile, in theaters, the latest Monsterverse epic has lined itself up to take the crown as the biggest release since the pandemic began with $285.4 million at the global box office, including $48.5 million domestically.
By comparison, the previous pandemic hit Tenet ended its entire domestic run at $57.9 million, a number Godzilla vs. Kong will likely eclipse next week to become the biggest theatrical run in over a year.
WarnerMedia Direct-Consumer exec Andy Forssell commented on the success, saying that the fans have “spoken very clearly and loudly,” going on to claim many are “watching it more than once”:
“The HBO Max audience has spoken very clearly and loudly: they love this film and are watching it more than once,”
IS THE DCEU FAILING?
It's hardly a surprise to see the long-awaited Snyder Cut of Justice League lagging behind a major film like Godzilla vs. Kong, and there are a number of key factors attached to this.
The casual fans who haven't closely followed the story behind the DC re-cut may confuse it for its original 2017 version, failing to realize it's a new piece of work altogether. Additionally, Snyder's vision of the superhero team-up is a four-hour R-Rated film, with an odd 4:3 aspect ratio that will prove jarring to many.
Meanwhile, the latest film in the Monsterverse is a brand-new family-friendly blockbuster that puts two iconic beings toe-to-toe in the biggest on-screen face-off in years. Naturally, it makes sense that the release would attract more viewers, even with a theatrical run taking away many viewers from its HBO Max viewership.
Forssell's comments have revealed that many fans are watching the film multiple times, while statistics released for the Snyder Cut confirmed many were failing to even finish one viewing. The long runtime and slow first act of Snyder's film may have held it back among general audiences, potentially being more tailored to hardcore viewers.
Given Wonder Woman 1984 launched in December as a simultaneous theatrical and HBO Max release, that film is far more comparable to Godzilla vs. Kong. Some may speculate from this that interest in the world of DC simply isn't that high, but successes like Aquaman prove that under the right circumstances, the fans will be there.
James Gunn's The Suicide Squad broke records upon its trailer debut, fetching immense viewership. With the director's insane popularity following his work on the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, the villainous team-up could be the film Warner Bros. needs to reinvigorate interest in the franchise.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE 2021 BOX OFFICE?
Godzilla vs. Kong is clearly on track to become the biggest box office hit since the COVID-19 pandemic struck last March. It's now been over a year of theaters opening and closing their doors on repeat around the world, making it impossible for any major blockbusters to reach their full potential.
The mild success of the latest Monsterverse film demonstrates clear signs of recovery in the film industry, aided by the ongoing vaccine rollout. However, box office enthusiasts shouldn't expect to see any billion-dollar-outings for some time to come still. Many theaters are operating at limited capacity, moviegoers remain cautious to enter packed screens, and many significant markets are still operating under restrictions — including the majority of Europe.
With the virus unlikely to disappear anytime soon, the box office numbers of Godzilla vs. Kong could indicate what Marvel fans should expect when Black Widow releases in July. Disney has been understandably hesitant to release its MCU prequel throughout the pandemic, given the film's previous billion-dollar club potential, and the company will want to capture as much of that as possible.
The second half of 2021 has a packed film slate of the first MCU theatrical runs since 2019 joining the likes of James Gunn's highly-anticipated The Suicide Squad and 007's latest mission in No Time to Die. Assuming no more significant shifts in the global climate, the film industry could be in for a big comeback this year with over a year's worth of delayed films finally dropping in theaters.
The Suicide Squad will be DC's next film to hit HBO Max, as it drops on the service and in theaters on August 6.