Commentary

Godzilla Isn't As Big As It Used To Be Despite $100M Marketing Budget

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” --  the third installment in yet another blockbuster series featuring outsized villains, epic battles and gargantuan marketing budgets -- had a disappointing debut weekend in North America despite beating Disney’s “Aladdin” at the box office with a take of $49 million, according to Comscore. It did better overseas, grossing $130 million.

“The latest installment in Warner Bros.' and Legendary Pictures’  MonsterVerse, the film follows 2017's ‘Kong: Skull Island,’ which opened with $61 million, and 2014's ‘Godzilla,’ which opened with $93 million,” writes Sonaiya Kelley for the Los Angeles Times.

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“That’s a potentially problematic drop in ticket sales for a movie that cost roughly $200 million to make. It also likely required a marketing spend in excess of $100 million,” writes Variety’s Rebecca Rubin.

“You can’t make an epic monster movie without spending some money,” Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, tells Rubin. “The fact that it earned less than the previous films may be an indicator that some creative risks or a different perspective on the genre could be needed to reinvigorate it and keep it relevant.”

“Starring Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown, the film sees the titular monster go head to head with Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah. It earned mixed reviews from audiences with a B+ CinemaScore and worse with critics, notching a 39% ‘rotten’ rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes,” Kelley adds.

USA Today’s Brian Truitt -- spoiler alert -- sums up the action: “The sequel to 2014’s ‘Godzilla’ finds the radioactive thunder lizard standing tall over a very, very wrecked Boston after defeating the three-headed dragon Ghidorah, saving humanity yet again but also becoming the alpha for a host of humongous ‘Titans’ that now walk the Earth.”

Now that we’ve got that settled, back to business. 

“Unlike Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, which revolves around a host of more-or-less human superhero characters, Legendary’s MonsterVerse counts on theatergoers’ appreciation for massive nonverbal monsters. That is a harder sell, according to Franchise Entertainment Research Inc.’s David A. Gross,” writes  R.T. Watson for the Wall Street Journal.

“Beyond the awesome destruction, it’s not easy to build character, story, emotion, the glue that sustains a series, when it’s all about the monster,” Gross tells Watson.

“In marketing the movie, Warner and Legendary, which is owned by China’s Dalian Wanda Group Co., showcased a global battle royal involving Godzilla and other monstrous titans, with various metropolises as collateral damage,” Watson adds.

“While the research agency Monarch -- introduced in the previous films --  is doing what it can, humanity’s best hope may be that Godzilla rises from the depths and fights on their side. Those monsters, instead of the shared universe the movie is part of, form the crux of the marketing campaign,” Chris Thilk writes for the Hollywood Reporter.

Thilk goes on to outline all the elements of that campaign, including posters, trailers, advertising, cross-promotions, partners such as Old Spice, Xbox and Johnny Rockets, and an interactive website.

“Exploring the Monarch website shows that the organization has declassified much of the research surrounding monsters like Godzilla and is enlisting people to help track it and other creatures. By clicking various sighting locations visitors can learn what sort of creatures have been seen  -- including Mothra -- and create an ID that shows you are part of the civilian force helping the organization,” Thilk continues.

Next up: “‘Godzilla vs Kong’ lands in theaters less than a year from now, on March 13, 2020. That film is directed by Adam Wingard, and will bring back most of the ‘King of the Monsters’ cast while also bringing in Alexander Skarsgard, Lance Reddick, Danai Gurira, Rebecca Hall, Damien Bechir, Bryan Tyree Henry, Jessica Henwick and Eiza Gonzalez. Get that hype train rolling now,” writes  Phil Owen for The Wrap.

“As much as [the individual flicks] are connected and part of a MonsterVerse, they all rise and fall on their own,” Comscore’s Dergarabedian tells Variety’s Rubin. “If the trailer is killer, the marketing is great, and the timing is right, [‘Godzilla vs. Kong'] could be bigger. You just never know.”

What’s mystifying is that no one has figured out that the simplest way to stop evil-doing, monstrous miscreants from wreaking havoc on great homo sapiens is to simply slap a tariff on them, which would generate yuge free publicity, which is all that matters.

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