“Godzilla vs. Kong” and the Future of Pandemic Cinema

By: Hayden C. Cordova | Managing Editor

Photo credit: TechRadar

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the relationship between theater chains and the film industry crashed to an all-time low.  The smashing success of  “Godzilla vs. Kong,” however, has possibly catapulted films and theaters back into the business.

The film follows a few other attempts from previous releases to kickstart theaters in a pandemic.  Warner Bros. “Tenet” opened at $20.2 million in America in Sept. 2020, with an ad campaign focused on bringing back theaters.  However, its total box office of $363.7 million against its budget of $200 million made it a failed attempt from Warner Bros. at revitalizing movie theaters during the pandemic. 

In comparison, “Godzilla vs. Kong” so far has had a worldwide total gross of $390.4 million, with its $48.5 million five-day opening weekend setting a pandemic record, according to Los Angeles Times.

What makes this release significant is that “Godzilla vs. Kong” is one of Warner Bros. films released simultaneously in theaters and on WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max. The release model is controversial since dividing the release platform makes the release difficult to track between two platforms.  Notable box office failures such as “The Little Things” and “Wonder Woman 1984” were early examples for proponents against the simultaneous release model. Still, according to Insider, “Godzilla vs. Kong” has been the most viewed film on the streaming service while simultaneously winning at the box office.

The film’s success again stokes the question that filled the conversation in the entertainment world at the beginning of the pandemic: does this change the way films will be distributed in the future?

A likely outcome in the wake of “Godzilla vs. Kong” would be studios looking to drastically shorten the release windows of movies in theaters from the usual 75-90 day runs.  Insider reported that Warner Bros. “struck a deal with Cineworld (which owns Regal Cinemas) to shrink the window to 45 days beginning in 2022.” 

On the other end of the spectrum, cinema chains under the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) cinema trade group warned that “while theaters in the US are heading in the right direction, markets in Canada, Europe, and Latin America are still struggling,” according to Insider.  With many theater chains closing their doors due to the pandemic, limiting release windows for theaters would put pressure on an already endangered line of business.

Either way, “Godzilla vs. Kong” pushed the entertainment industry in a new successful direction, with upcoming blockbuster releases such as “Mortal Kombat” and “Black Widow” looking to continue the trend.