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‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” roars to an $80 million box office opening

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Godzilla-King Kong combo stomped on expectations as “ Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire ” roared to an $80 million opening on 3,861 North American screens, according to Sunday studio estimates.

The monster merger from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures starring Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry brought the second-highest opening in what has been a robust year, falling just short of the the $81.5 million debut of “Dune: Part 2.”

Projections had put the the opening weekend of “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” which sees the monsters teaming up instead of squaring up, at closer to $50 million.

“It’s a cinematic event, and we’re seeing these iconic characters doing things we’ve never seen them do before,” said Mary Parent, chairman of worldwide production for Legendary. “There’s big swaths of the film that don’t have any dialogue, where we put you with the characters, it’s a very mythic experience.”

Last week’s No. 1 at the box office, “ Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” was second with $15.7 million for a two-week total of $73.4 million.

“ Dune: Part Two ” stayed strong in its fifth week, falling in the third spot with an $11.1 million take and a domestic total of $252.4 million.

The last matchup of the two monsters from Warner Bros. and Legendary, 2021’s “ Godzilla vs. Kong,” had a much smaller opening weekend of $48.5 million, but for a film slowed by the coronavirus pandemic and released simultaneously on HBO Max, it was a serious success that signaled what was to come for the pairing.

“It was a really big number all things considered,” Parent said.

The newer film had the second biggest opening of the studios’ broader MonsterVerse franchise. “Godzilla” brought in $93.2 million in 2014. It was the biggest earner in the nearly 70-year cinematic history of the creature that originated and spent most of its screen life in Japan. It earned more than $200 million in North America and more than $500 million globally.

“Godzilla x Kong” comes just four months after the most recent Japanese rendition, the critical favorite and Oscar winner “Godzilla Minus One.”

But there was clearly no Godzilla glut for audiences, many of whom were willing to pay extra for IMAX and other special formats.

“These are literally two of the biggest movie stars in the world, and you have to see them on the biggest screen possible with the biggest sound possible,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore.

The combination of “Godzilla x Kong,” “Dune Part Two” and “Ghostbusters” has put the year to date 6 percent behind 2023, while it was 20 percent behind on the eve of the March 1 release of “Dune.”

“The industry was feeling pretty glum right before ‘Dune Part 2’ opened, but they’ve made up a lot of ground,” said Dergarabedian.

The summer is full of titles that are not guaranteed megahits but could break big, including Ryan Gosling’s “The Fall Guy” and the next installments of “Planet of the Apes,” “Mad Max,” “Inside Out” and “Deadpool.”

That brings cause for optimism as the theatrical movie business seeks to hang on, though it’s highly unlikely it will surpass 2023, which saw “Barbie” surpass $1 billion globally with its release-date mate “Oppenheimer” not far behind.

“’Barbenheimer’” is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Dergarabedian said.

Estimated ticket sales are for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” 80 million.

2. “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” $15.7 million.

3. “Dune: Part Two,” $11.1 million.

4. “Kung Fu Panda 4,” $10.2. million.

5. “Immaculate,” $3.3 million.

6. “Arthur the King,” $2.4 million.

7. “Late Night With the Devil,” $2.2 million.

8. “Tillu Square,” $1.8 million.

9. “Crew,” $1.5 million.

10. “Imaginary,” $1.4 million.

By ANDREW DALTON
AP Entertainment Writer

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