6TH UPDATE, SUNDAY AM FINAL: Even though Legendary/Warner Bros. Godzilla: King of the Monsters led all movies at the domestic box office, it’s with lackluster results, as the lizard has fallen below his stateside projections with $49M, per the studio – and some rivals even see the pic’s three-day lower at $47M. And per our finance sources, Godzilla‘s overseas numbers of $130M are just as ugly as him. While Kong Skull Island ‘s U.S./Canada business surged Saturday over Friday by 19%, King of the Monsters fell 17%, from $19.7M on Friday to $16.3M. Heck, the lizard was even whipped by a Blue Genie, with Aladdin leading all titles yesterday with $17.3M.

Solid Thursday previews of $6.3M, great exits with 4 stars on PostTrak — why did Godzilla buckle and descend in his projections as the weekend went on from $60M+ to $51M to this? In short, business was fanboy-front loaded.

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While the weekend’s frosh event title incurred rust, counter-programming for the first time in an Avengers: Endgame dominant summer thrived, with Paramount’s Rocketman ($25M) and Universal/Blumhouse’s Ma ($18.2M off $5M production cost). Both, per our finance sources, are bound to be profitable. That breadth on the B.O. chart translated to $173.9M worth of business for all movies this weekend, according to ComScore, +61% from the same period a year ago. But this year’s box office at $4.6 billion still hasn’t caught up to 2018 for the frame of Jan. 1-June 2, behind 7.6%.

Seriously, Godzilla 2. Despite the efforts by Warner Bros.’ marketing to distinguish this movie as a need-to-see moment on the screen by dropping the trailer a little less than a year in advance last July, it’s tired IP. Warners aimed to sell King of the Monsters on its hippest quotient in trailers, that being Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown in her first big movie. But the fact is Legendary’s Kong: Skull Island had a hipper cast, with Marvel’s Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, with Brie Larson post-Oscar win (and pre-Captain Marvel). Instead of pushing Godzilla in a hackneyed way with lots of noise in the trailer, Warners took a 180-degree approach by showing images of the monsters wreaking environmental havoc set against classical music, in effort to show “the wonder” of their cinematic calamity.

Still, when it comes to reinvigorating an IP as old as this, it’s a job for a mouse on a wheel. Some financiers believe that for such fare, the production costs are way too high at $170M (some say Godzilla 2 was more near $185M) in order to reach any kind of black ink margin. Godzilla 2 had great exits, but arguably that Rotten Tomatoes score was the biggest repellent to keeping audiences away at 40%, versus the first two Legendary monster pic’s 75% certified fresh.

But again, who wants to see another near-apocalyptic, Roland Emmerich-like disaster movie with monsters? Who wants to rush to this movie? We just had Pacific Rim Uprising last March, and Transformers is waning. True, these movies get made for the booming Asian theatrical marketplace. Overseas this weekend for Godzilla totaled $130M, and finance sources aren’t excited. Out of the three Legendary monster movies in U.S./Canada, King of the Monsters is the lowest at $49M, versus Kong: Skull Island‘s over-indexed three-day of $61M and 2014’s Godzilla of $93.1M. Just like Bumblebee should have launched in 2017 instead of Transformers: The Last Knight, Legendary’s hybrid Godzilla vs. Kong may have been the better cinematic evolution this weekend. But many monsters battling on one screen? We’ve seen that before, and it’s called Pacific Rim. 

Also, let’s not ignore the muscle of Disney’s Aladdin, which also went after families like King of the Monsters. Prince Ali eased 53% for a $42.3M second weekend, pulling in close to a third share of combined parents and kids under 12. Even though Godzilla 2 has a sizeable share of boys under 12 at 63%, so does Aladdin at 43%. Again, this speaks to the power of a Disney event film, and the risks of any rival programming in its wake. Sure, it was hard to see how big Aladdin was going to be from a distance, especially with the pic leaning more female. But he’s still pulling in everyone, with 29% females over 25, 27% females under 25, 22% males under 25, and 21% males over 25.

We are hearing that Paramount’s Rocketman dynamited the older demos out of the house, with 40% of the audience over 45. Also, 55% of the crowd was over 30. The raunchy side of of Elton John’s glorious pop life played stronger on the coasts than the flyover states, as expected. That said, in the middle of the country, Rocketman worked in upscale metro areas like Austin and Detroit. Backing out the $2.3M previews out of Friday’s $9.2M (for an actual $6.9M), Rocketman surged 35% on Saturday with $9.3M, which is a promising sign to Paramount that the audience expanded for this movie. Paramount, rivals and finance sources are banking on a big multiple for this $41M budgeted rock star biopic. As we said all weekend, Rocketman was never to be compared to Bohemian Rhapsody, due to its significant amount of R-rated material, including gay content, not to mention the Freddie Mercury pic skewed younger with a PG-13 rating.

The Rocketman campaign started its engines back in October, with the trailer debuting on the American Music awards and trailering on A Star Is Born‘s opening weekend. Paramount capitalized during Oscars week by dropping the pic’s second trailer on Good Morning America, a digital featurette focusing on Taron Egerton’s singing the John canon, a TV spot during the Oscars telecast, and an IMDb takeover on the heavily trafficked Oscar Sunday. The cherry on the sundae was Egerton’s duet with John at his AIDS Foundation event, proof that the actor was born to play the part. Paramount showed early footage to the press at the Troubadour back in March, the music club where John made his US debut. Egerton and director Dexter Fletcher presented more footage at CinemaCon at MOMA in NYC, with Egerton appearing on James Corden in March to promote his Carpool Karaoke episode with Richard Madden.

Early TV hits utilized long-form ads during This Is Us and other female-focused programming to build anticipation among the core audience. In the last leg of the campaign in May, spots kicked off on the Billboard Music Awards and targeted younger- skewing, music-centric programming like American Idol and The Voice, heavy female cable, and key all-audience moments, including the NBA Finals Game 1. There was a broadcast integration with Project Runway inspired by John’s fashion, titled “The Stitch is Back.” This was timed to the MET Gala. Paramount also integrated into American Idol with Egerton and John on the show. Part of the episode was inspired by the music legend’s songs, with contestants performing covers.

There was a huge partnership with Universal Music Group and John’s label, whereby the record companies and the studio activated music influencers and tastemakers to build buzz and editorial support, ranging from Ed Sheeran to the Beckhams and Boy George, to key partners at Spotify, Apple, and Amazon. Outdoor ads were ablaze at Coachella, with an activation at Rachel Zoe’s “Zoeasis” during the music festival. John, Egerton and soundtrack producer Giles Martin appeared on Zane Lowe’s World Record show on Beats1 to discuss the soundtrack and debut the first single. Egerton also joined a special episode of Elton’s Rocket Hour show on Apple Music, where they discussed the actor’s performance and translating the iconic music for the film. Throughout the campaign, John’s YouTube channel released classic footage from historic performances and tied the music and moments to the film. All of this was capped off by Rocketman world premiering at Cannes, with an after-party performance by John and Egerton at the Carlton Beach, the place where John shot the video for “I’m Still Standing” some 37 years ago.

African American audiences drove business for Ma this weekend at 36%, with 25-34 year-olds repping a third of the crowd, and the 18-34 crowd a big 70% in Universal reported exits. Females had the upper hand at 53%. While $20M would have been a great opening for Ma, turnstile action didn’t fall apart like Godzilla 2, with Saturday’s take of $6.55M, -9%, steady enough for a $18.2M opening.

Beamed Jim Orr, Universal’s domestic distribution boss, “Ma is a quintessential Blumhouse movie, providing audiences exactly what they’ve come to expect from the brand – a very original concept that was flawlessly executed by our fantastic director, Tate Taylor, with a very dynamic cast led by incredible Octavia Spencer.” 

The studio had a great partner in Spencer, who promoted the pic aggressively on her social media channels (1.1M per RelishMix), and appearances on Ellen, James Corden and Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, as well as a May 16 pop-up event at Los Angeles’ Beckett Mansion, a combination of a house party and fear-provoking escape room. The campaign for Ma kicked off in February with an online trailer. There was a publicity blitz surrounding Mother’s Day that included custom spots on-air and across digital platforms, as well as a custom Snapchat lens in which the user’s lips are sewn shut, as seen in a pivotal scene from the film. Multi-cultural outreach included “Ma Jokes” videos on African American social portal All Def (9M reach), key video music premiere takeovers, including Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road”, Latin reggaton Maluma’s “11pm” and YG’s “Into the Dark”. TV spots ran on the highly-anticipated return of La Reina del Sur 2 on Telemundo as well as La Reina Soy Yo and Doña Flor y sus Dos Maridos.

5TH WRITETHRU SATURDAY AM after FRIDAY 11:06PM post: Godzilla: King of the Monsters has slowed down significantly, from the $24M opening day that many were seeing midday Friday to an estimated $19.6M yesterday. This has greatly shifted the Warner Bros./Legendary movie’s opening from the previously projected $60M-$65M to just under its tracking projection of $50M with $49.5M.

Why did this happen? Sometimes analysts see a rosy midday picture with presales, then as the evening comes, ticket sales slowdown. Some attribute the downturn in business to the pic playing young with 22% under 17. On CinemaScore, the under 18 set at 16% gave King an A-, ditto for the under 25 crowd who repped 41% of last night’s audience. Before today, Fandango saw King of the Monsters advance ticket sales ahead of Kong: Skull Island. Many were bullish.

In addition, let’s face facts: Godzilla is a tried property and refreshing interest in this ancient IP becomes a challenge. Warner Bros. sold King of the Monsters squarely on the fanboy appeal of Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown with the first two trailers opening on her. Outside of the lizards, she’s the star, and human element of the pic. Helping raise the pic’s profile was her access to 20.3M fans on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

On the upside, exits are great with solid PostTraks from last night in 4 1/2 stars from general audiences and 5 stars from families. King of the Monsters also gets a B+ CinemaScore which is the same grade as Legendary’s 2014 Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island. Bad reviews are likely the thorn in Godzilla’s side here, slowing the big lug down as he’s the worst received out of the Legendary trio at 40% Rotten versus the previous two pic’s 75% fresh. Says RelishMix about some negative pre-release chatter on social for King of the Monsters, “Recent outings like Pacific Rim have let moviegoers down with exaggerated sequences and reliance upon effects instead of story. This segment is happy to see a rising star like Millie Bobbie Brown in the movie – but they’re also wondering how many movies like this can be made with all of humanity in peril, yet the story focuses on just a handful.”

Kong: Skull Island surprised over its opening weekend. We initially roasted the pic on its opening night, then business surged Saturday over Friday by 19% (going from $20M to $23M) for a very good $61M. No one saw those numbers until they happened. Maybe history repeats itself here. One thing is for certain, and that’s overseas has the heavy lifting to do. While Legendary contends the net cost before P&A is $170M, several sources told us that King of the Monsters was substantially higher. I’m hearing just under $185M seems right (though I have others telling me the project was originally shopped around at $230M net). Warner Bros. is on the hook for 25% as they wanted to share in any potential spoils of Legendary monsters’ franchise. The 2014 Godzilla made an estimated $52M-plus in profit after all post theatrical streams off combined global P&A and production costs just under $300M and $529M worldwide B.O. King of the Monsters was largely shot between 2017 and 2018 in Atlanta with tax credits. Second unit work was done in Mexico. Legendary East is handling China, Togo has Japan. I’m informed King of the Monsters is not a China-US co-production whereby a larger than normal 25%-27% rental from the Middle Kingdom would flow back here.

King of the Monsters played best in the West & South-West. Imax drove 19% of Friday’s take with 3D repping 10%.

Paramount/Marv Films’ Rocketman is still staying in the range we saw at $22.9M, with Universal/Blumhouse’s Ma lower from yesterday’s $20M at $18.2M, the latter still very good for a $5M net production before P&A. In the wake of Disney’s Avengers: Endgame, this is the best result for wide entry counter-programming to date this summer, and that’s to be commended as each studio positioned these pics in the market as events. Paramount toured Rocketman to Cannes, Australia, London, San Francisco, with rotating combination of Elton John, Taron Egerton and director Dexter Fletcher in tow. Also, both movies are magnetic in their branding: one a never-before-seen Hollywood musical biopic about a living pop legend and the other a unique genre high concept (the cool adult gone cyber stalker) under the Good Housekeeping horror label.

Coming away from the electricity at Cannes, John and Egerton’s performance at the Carlton Beach, and Rocketman‘s amazing Fellini-esque showstopping numbers, I was shocked to hear from various insiders and Egerton at the press conference how this pic was poised to do less than Bohemian Rhapsody (though still solid business). They were correct: The R-rating and ratcheted up gay content were potential speed bumps. Also, Bohemian Rhapsody played in early November against less competition and notched the top of the charts while Rocketman is up against a ton of tentpoles.

According to RelishMix, pre-weekend social chatter was quite positive coming away from Cannes for Rocketman, with a social media universe of 115M. Though lower than Bohemian Rhapsody‘s 242M across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube/Facebook video view, Rocketman video materials were more viral over the Freddie Mercury movie, 19:1 to 9:1. Throughout the campaign, going back to John’s Oscar viewing party, the movie’s marketing push capitalized on both John and Egerton’s performing power. See video below of Egerton singing “Tiny Dancer” at John’s AIDS Foundation Academy Awards viewing party.

Juxtaposing last night’s demos with Bohemian Rhapsody‘s first day exits on PostTrak, the audience make-up is roughly similar between both titles. Both leaned heavily over 25 (Bohemian 77% to  Rocketman‘s 81%). The Elton John biopic was slightly more female than Freddie Mercury, 56% to 51%. The under 35 crowd was greater on Rocketman over Bo Rap, 55% to 47%. Of the four quad male/female 25 +/- demos, Rocketman scored the best with females over 25 (90%) who came out at 45% with the other three quads graded the John biopic in the seventy percentile range. For the most part,  Bohemian Rhapsody had a better positive score among the four quads, ranging from 83% to 89%. Rocketman has nothing to fret since musicals leg out and the exits are great with an A- CinemaScore and PostTrak showing 4 stars. Like King of the Monsters, Saturday night for Rocketman could demonstrate it’s alright, alright for the pic’s ticket sales.

Ma‘s exits aren’t spectacular with a B- CinemaScore and 2 1/2 stars on PostTrak. That might explain why its business is slightly lower than anticipated. RelishMix noticed a mixed social reaction to the whole conceit of a twisted, partying adult.  Ma was mostly female, 57% to 43% with 74% under 35 years old and 68% falling between 18-34 years old. Updated diversity demos were 37% Caucasian, 36% African American, 16% Hispanic, & 11% Asian/Other. The East coast and the entire South, especially the SouthEast were the best territories for Ma.

3rd Update, Friday Midday: Warner Bros/Legendary’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters is biting off more than he was expected to chew, headed for a $60M-$65M weekend after a $24M Friday at 4,108 theaters that includes $6.3M in previews.

PostTrak exits last night for Godzilla and friends were fantastic with 4 1/2 stars from general audiences and 5 stars from both parents and kids under 12. General crowds gave the film a 75% definite recommend, parents an 80% and kids 88%. Caucasians were less than 50% of the crowd with very good turnout by Hispanic (24%) and Asian moviegoers (13%). West coast business is bound to be very good. Male heavy as expected at 70%, with leading demos being men over 25 (41%), men under 25 (29%), females over 25 (18%) and females under 25 (12%). Interestingly, females like the movie a little bit more than guys, 87% to 84%.

Disney’s Aladdin will take 2nd place in weekend 2 with $11M today and $43M for the weekend at 4,476, -47%, for a running 10-day total of $185.6M by Sunday.

Paramount/Marv Film’s Rocketman is seeing an estimated first day of $8.5M (including those $2.3M previews) and a 3-day between $23M-$25M. Solid 4 stars on Postrak last night, 64% definite recommend with 81% over 25. Females 25+ are taking up the majority of seats at 45% and they love this Elton John biopic more than other quad at 90%. Males over 25 are second biggest audience at 35% followed by females under 25 at 11% and males under 25 at 9%. We’ll see if the kids come out more, but it’s not PG-13 like Bohemian Rhapsody. 

Universal/Blumhouse’s Ma is eyeing an estimated $8M today (plus $1.4M previews) and a 3-day of $20M, a fantastic start for the $5M net production (before P&A) and technically Octavia Spencer’s first leading role on the big screen. Ma drew 32% Caucasian, very strong African American at 31%, 19% Hispanic and 13% Asian yesterday. Fairly even age quads with Males over 25 at 31%, females over 25 at 26%, females under 25 at 23%, and males under 25 at 20%. Near 70% positive on PostTrak for the Tate Taylor-directed thriller.

No. 5 belongs to Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 3 with $10M-11M in weekend 3 at 3,604, -57%, for a running total on the high end of $125.8M by Sunday.

UA/Annapurna’s Booksmart having a solid hold in weekend 2 of $4M as of this point in time, -42% for a running total of $15M. Compare this to Screen Gems/H Collective’s Brightburn which is flaming out with a $2.1M weekend 2 take, -73%. for a 10-day of $14M.

2nd update 8:48AM after 7:03AM post w/Rocketman: Warner Bros./Legendary’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters ate $6.3M last night.

How that compares to other Legendary beastly movies: It’s lower than 2014’s Godzilla previews of $9.3m (started at 8PM) and higher than  March 2017’s Kong: Skull Island ($3.7M off 7pm shows) and March 2018’s Pacific Rim Uprising sequel ($2.35M). The studio’s first Godzilla took in a $38.4M Friday (of which its previews repped 24%) and went on to do a massive $93.1M. Kong: Skull Island drew an opening day of $20.1M (previews repped 18%) and 3-day of $61M.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ RT Score is at 41% Rotten. From certain realms with knowledge of pre-sales, we’re hearing Godzilla and friends is Teflon-proof against reviews, and could potentially meet or excel its $50M+ projection. We’ll see. The pic plays in 4,108 theaters today. The hope here by many is that this weekend at the box office won’t be a scenario of haves and have nots between tentpoles and the lower budgeted movies, in sum counter-programming is poised to finally work with Paramount/MARV film’s Rocketman and Universal/Blumhouse’s Ma. 

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The later pic, a reteam between The Help‘s Tate Taylor and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer made $1.4M at 2,400 theaters last night off showtimes that started at 7PM. Pic expands to 2,808 today. Comparable preview grosses include such Blumhouse originals as The Visit ($1.02M), Truth or Dare ($750K), as well as Tyler Perry’s Acrimony ($1M). Many are betting that Ma, which cost a net $5M, smashes over $20M for the weekend.

Rocketman saw $1.75M last night from 7pm shows. But the Dexter Fletcher-directed Elton John biopic has an extra $580K from May 18 Fandango Paid previews for a total $2.3M. Some have been continually cautious not to compare the R-rated musical biopic to the PG-13 Freddie Mercury Bohemian Rhapsody. That movie scored $3.9M in previews (also from 7pm starts) back in November, however, Rocketman has better reviews than the Queen pic, 90% Certified fresh to 61% fresh. A Star Is Born, backing out its pre-previews, made $3.2M on its first Thursday night. You can’t ignore the fact of how fun Rocketman is, and even it has less fuel than the $51M start of Bohemian Rhapsody or A Star Is Born‘s $42.9M, many are certain that the Paramount film will just play and play. Outlook is $25M for Rocketman at 3,610 theaters, a great start for this pic which costs $41M net before P&A.

Among those films already in play yesterday, Disney’s Aladdin was No. 1 with $6.5M, -14%, for a running total of $142.8M in its first week.

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