While the world is more than primed to see Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire absolutely crush on the 2024 movie schedule, it was quite the surprise when the Toho-produced Godzilla Minus One went on to stomp out its own path to glory. As the domestic run of the film draws to a close, it’s insane to look at the records co-writer/director Takashi Yamazaki has broken, with an estimated $104.7 million total in worldwide grosses.
That Cinderzilla story became quite a lesson for top theater executives throughout the National Association of Theatre Owners, and the recent re-release of Godzilla Minus One/Minus Color only further reinforced those ideas. As I was able to speak with several exhibitors on behalf of this variant’s limited theatrical run, it led to some exciting feedback on how this film and its massive impact on the industry.
In terms of raving about how good Godzilla was, in both the sense of its quality and what it did for business, Harkins Theaters CEO Mike Bowers provided quite a glowing recommendation. When sharing why both sides of that coin excited him so much, Bowers told CinemaBlend the following:
I could rave about this movie forever, because I just loved it. It’s one of my favorite movies of the year. … We obviously love the major releases, the big blockbuster tentpoles. They're great, I want every one of 'em, and they're all still performing well. But to bring in this other audience, which is a new and fresh to some degree audience, I think is tremendous for the industry. And I think having a little bit of time right now for those movies to have some oxygen to breathe and play out, because we're just seeing the benefit of that throughout the industry.
2023 was certainly a year that had some lessons to teach involving blockbuster tentpoles. With Disney failing to be the top studio for the first time since 2015, juggernauts like the MCU didn’t produce the results most would have expected. Even the underwhelming fortunes of Indiana Jones and Mission: Impossible last summer proved that there are no sure things.
Hollywood is always looking for the next big deal, and Godzilla Minus One may have indicated that imports are a hot commodity; even if they happen to be linked to one of the largest, most historically established franchises on the market.
It’s a point that makes these next remarks from Greg Marcus, the CEO of Marcus Theaters, all the more potent. In Greg’s perspective, Godzilla Minus One’s recent success comes from the same well that upcoming Marvel movies also draw from: an established fandom.
Mr. Marcus’ reflection noted that audiences primed for Toho’s mythic creation were clearly showing up, and that was part of why he and other exhibitors had a good feeling about the flick’s chances in theaters. At the same time, when speaking with CinemaBlend, Greg Marcus also noted how one of the MCU’s finest provided this teachable moment that any movie of this sort could use to its advantage:
I'm guessing the people that aren't seeing … they aren't getting the marketing, people who would say, ‘Oh, well I just think it's a Godzilla movie, and so I'm not gonna go.’ One of the movies I loved was the original Guardians of the Galaxy. … A bunch of my friends would never go see it, 'cause they're older [and] wouldn't go see a superhero movie. But if they would've known what a fun soundtrack that was? … That's the people who are probably missing it, people who just don't hear that it's really good and beyond not just a Godzilla movie.
For anyone who thought film marketing has become less important for any sort of potential blockbuster, that’s an assumption that looks to have been dispelled quite nicely. In speaking with Sarah Pitre, the Head of Film Buying at Alamo Drafthouse, that lesson was brought into even sharper focus. Citing the chain’s history with always playing well with the Godzilla fandom, she too had a good feeling early on that Godzilla Minus One was going to perform.
That doesn’t mean that there weren’t any surprises to be had with how Godzilla Minus One/Minus Color hit with that crowd. In particular, the black and white version of the 2023 movie, which was only put onto the market for a week, used an old strategy to its advantage: FOMO.
With a ticking clock on its ticketing page that showed how long fans had before it left screens, Minus Color tried to build excitement with a countdown. It certainly worked on me, as I was inspired to take my wife to see that version and dig into the pros and cons of Godzilla Minus One/Minus Color’s magic. So when I asked Ms. Pitre about whether or not this new version sparked any sort of trends, she responded thusly:
We definitely saw an increase in attendance … I can tell you that the hype around it only being available for a week and then the film goes into the vault, that really worked. And people were like, ‘Oh, snap, I'm gonna miss my opportunity,’ either to see this new version or just see this film period. … As of today at our Manhattan Theater, like right now, Godzilla is the number two film in the building. And that's, that's with a ton of other films that have come out much later. So that's been out for nine weeks, and that's actually the oldest running first run in the building, and it's number two.
We now come to one final piece of wisdom involving how Godzilla Minus One’s massive success has shaken up the cinema industry. It comes from Joe Garel, the VP of Film for Cineopolis Luxury Cinemas, who had even more precise metrics that backed a broader point of strategy when it comes to mid-range releases such as this.
When looking over how Cineopolis’ performance with Godzilla’s latest round of destruction, Garel was able to point out some very specific data points about why one location in particular outpaced the rest of the chain. As Joe told CinemaBlend, that only leads to another key factor that should be kept in mind for the long run:
Honestly, the Asian audience came out for it in a big way. We have a theater in San Mateo, and its demographic is from primary Asia there, and that's where we scored the most, as far as box office goes. Plus the big screen format is what people are looking after. So like, we have Screen X in San Mateo, and that, I think it's like the highest grossing Screen X in America, you know, like, like it is awesome. … The manager of the theater was telling me, ‘We gotta keep programming stuff like this.’ … But it won't destroy other theaters. So you really have to fight for the right theaters to play, because the distributors, they do their best to get the film into the right theaters, but they're using old data.
Data, strategy and a loyal audience are all the keys to a big ticket barnstormer like Godzilla Minus One. While the final tallies aren’t in line with even the MonsterVerse’s batting average, that was never going to be the case. Then again, Takashi Yamazaki and Toho didn’t have the pressure to do such a thing, as the stakes were relatively smaller thanks to an estimated production budget of between $10-$15 million.
On that sort of scale, the $104.7 million that this Godzilla prequel brought in is about as large as the iconic kaiju would be to a small child. Looking from that perspective, and keeping in mind what the various NATO exhibitors had to say above, maybe Toho should reconsider a potential Yamkazaki-made sequel more closely than ever, especially with exhibitors continuing to look over the aftermath of these revealing finds.
If you got to see Godzilla Minus One or Godzilla Minus One/Minus Color in theaters, you’d probably want that to happen as much as I do. But if you happened to miss it, take comfort in one hypothetical situation: if one re-release could show promising attendance boosts, as well as steady growth, then what’s to say there isn’t a healthy repertory future in Godzilla Minus One’s future?
Although, let's not forget, Godzilla x Kong: The Secret Empire is also on its way to theaters. With a March 29 release date on the chart, you won't have to wait too long for Titan-sized action to return. Long live The King, indeed.