Hey there fellow G-Fans! Forbes recently put out an article about why King of the Monsters failed at the box office this summer and while some of their points are extremely valid, I feel like they missed some very important factors that could have helped the film. Let’s deep dive into the box office disappointment that was ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ and talk about what legendary should do in the future.
Giant Monster Competition
The aforementioned Forbes article brought up a bunch of good points regarding the 5 year gap between KotM and 2014’s Godzilla, specifically the targeting the influx of other Kaiju films during the time period. Now this is where I agree and disagree with their findings at the same time. They state that KotM couldn’t find success because of there being other giant monster films around to satiate that itch as a general audience goer. While there have been other films since 2014, Godzilla as a brand even in the general population carries a ton of weight (especially when it comes to giant monster films). I don’t think there is a fatigue for giant monster films in Hollywood yet and thus I don’t think the other monster films like Rampage and Meg releasing between 2014 and KotM made much of a difference.
Of course I would be a fool to not discuss the real box office competition for KotM this summer, the massive film juggernaut that is Disney and a few other movies in the same film genre. First of we have the titan that was ‘Avengers: Endgame’. Now the fact that Avengers released a month before hand so you would think that was enough time for it’s box office impact to calm down but unfortunately for KotM it’s box office run hadn’t even come close to finishing. Now sitting at $2.7 billion world wide, there is no denying the money Avengers stole from other movies this summer. To keep with the Disney trend, one of KotM’s biggest rivals in the box office was the release of the live action ‘Aladdin.’ This film released only a week before KotM and while it received mediocre reviews, the film had a decent word of mouth and the nostalgia factor going for it. ‘Aladdin’ ended it’s run with over $1 billion dollars worldwide.
The next two films that ruined the legs of KotM aren’t Disney films but they fall into the same genre (action summer blockbusters) and they sucked all of the wind from KotM’s sails in it’s second and third weekends. Of course I am talking about ‘Dark Phoenix’ and ‘Men in Black: International.’ Now these films didn’t do very well in the box office either and got horrible critic reviews but the impact they had on KotM is bigger than you would originally think. Successful movies usually make a huge lump sum their first weekend and then lose go down a maximum of 50-60% the next weekend due to competition. KotM did not make a huge impact in it’s first weekend (due to some other factors which I will get to) and then dropped a staggering 67% in it’s second weekend when it started competing with ‘Dark Phoenix.’ That is obviously not good at it only got worse the next weekend.
The Solution: Maintain The Original Release
One of the biggest mistakes Legendary made in this regard was the decision to abandon the original release date of March 22, 2019 for a summer tent pole date of May 31, 2019. ‘Kong: Skull Island’ thrived in the box office when it released in March because it had zero competition for two weeks. KotM would have only had to deal with ‘Captain Marvel’ at the beginning of the month and then ‘Dumbo’ at the end (‘Dumbo’ failed at the box office so KotM would have stood a chance). Avengers would have killed it’s standing as King at the end of April but by that time KotM would have had a fairly healthy run (Shazam! may have taken it down to number two but it would have still been there for awhile). The fact is that Godzilla is not big enough in the current cinematic landscape to be treated as a summer blockbuster. Hopefully ‘Godzilla Vs Kong’ won’t make the same mistake.
Reviews and Rotten Tomatoes: Why They Matter
Now for what is obviously a big factor in KotM’s failure, the reviews and more specifically the infamous Rotten tomatoes score. I know some of you out there have convinced yourselves that this score didn’t matter and people don’t pay attention to it or that everyone know that the algorithm is broken. Well as much as I hate to say it, the normal everyday movie goer does use Rotten Tomatoes to decide what film they go see on the weekend. The RT score shows up on various movie ticket buying sites and apps and is still the most quoted review rating in most circles. I will agree that the algorithm is a little broken (several reviews are 7 out of 10 on their respective sites and are counted as rotten) but in long run unless you are really searching for things wrong with it you are probably just going to trust the score at face value.
So now that we know the RT score is not good, it’s time to look at why KotM didn’t click with reviewers. So first we have to weed out the people who hated on the film because they have a preconceived bias or just hate the genre in general. The worst part about these reviews is that they do not look at the film objectively and for what kind of film it was trying to be. This may sound like me just trying to defend the film but I am well aware of it’s flaws and I still do respect the critics who point out those flaws. I am talking about the reviews that said stuff like:
“Budget is not normally the sort of thing you mention in a review, but when you see a film that is almost entirely driven by spectacle and you keep marveling at how slapdash and/or unreal everything looks, you do start to wonder where all the money went.”
“Is the picture any good? Uhhh. It's a Godzilla movie. So I'm going to say, "not really."“
“The whole movie is indistinguishable rubble.”
Of course a lot of these same reviewers are the exact same people who always give the Marvel/Disney films perfect scores even when their flaws are equal to if not worse than anything KotM did but I think you get the idea. One of the weirdest things that a lot of critics focused down on was the switch to being “too much monster action” when they previously said there was “not enough monster action in 2014.” This hilarious switch in opinions has been pointed out by many before but I think it’s really indicative of critics as a whole. Sometimes even they don’t know what they actually want. Sadly KotM is just not the type of film critics will like, as a Godzilla film it is a modern made Showa movie (for better and worse) and I really think an american audience doesn’t know how to process the little bit of cheese inherent in a Showa film.
Of course there is one last giant elephant in the room that I must point out that could have and should have saved this film’s bad reviews. As you saw in the image above there is a massive discrepancy in the critic score and the audience score. Also general word of mouth for the film was pretty universally positive and usually that will make a huge difference. Unfortunately I think the positive buzz for the film was killed off by the competition that I already mentioned above. There is definitely factor that halted any sort of growth for KotM that nobody seems to be talking about.
Merchandise: Where Was It?
This is by far the biggest mistake Legendary and Warner Bros. made with KotM, there was no presence of marketing or merchandise in any American stores. Now some of you might be thinking, why would there be? After all, neither Kong: Skull Island or Godzilla (2014) had that much stuff in stores. That is where you are wrong! During the marketing push of 2014 (sometime around March) store shelves were stocked full of toys, shirts, wallets, tote bags, and more. The merchandise was every where and it really helped general audience members and the families know that Godzilla was coming out soon. The impact on the box office of 2014 is extremely obvious, it opened to $93 million and made double KotM’s domestic box office overall. Believe it or not but kids like to get toys for upcoming movies and seeing Godzilla toys everywhere made them ask their parents if they could go see the film. Never underestimate the power of a film being on store shelves.
I’m sure right now you are all typing in the comment section that toys and shirts did exist for KotM and that I’m crazy but here is the biggest issue. Kong and KotM took the exact same approach to merchandise and that is the problem. Kong is not a small name to be sure but even at the height of Peter Jackson’s Kong there wasn’t a lot of merch for him. It made sense when Legendary decided to get a cheap toy making company to make the toys and of course to relegate them to Walmart only. Also keep in mind Kong was a March release which means that it had less competition so they could rely on just word of mouth and reviews to sell their film.
Godzilla is a different beast altogether and has always relied on some merchandise to help the film (from Japan to America this is the case). KotM had the Walmart exclusive toys just like Kong did but they were only at the front of the toy section for a week or so (also this was in late March early April) before they were sent to the aisles or back of the store. Of course this means that even in the exclusive retailer, Godzilla was not front and center. T-shirts were non-existent in the US, with only one being sold by Hot Topic and even then 90% of stores didn’t carry it and you had to order it. As a point of reference for the shirts issue, JC Penny sold a t-shirt for 2014 and Hot Topic had two or three on shelves at all times. There were zero random accessories like wallets or shot glasses sold in America this time around. Essentially everything that worked with the merchandising push for 2014 they didn’t do for KotM for some reason.
This whole merchandise issue caused the American general audience to lose track of the film’s release date. I can’t tell you how many people I asked about KotM after it had released only to be me with “wait that movie is out already?” There is one final factor that really hurt KotM in the long run and this one might be one of the biggest missteps.
Social Media Hype Was Non-Existent
During the final marketing push for 2014, Legendary partnered up with a bunch of popular YouTube channels to create hype for Godzilla. All of these video’s were extremely silly and cringe worthy for a G-fan but most of these videos have hundreds of thousands of views and furthered the hype of new Godzilla films to the people who matter for a successful box office run. This is just one example of the ineptitude involved wtih the promotion of KotM.
Something that they should have leaned into way more is the history behind the three main titans: Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidorah. When a G-fan hears these names we get hyped just from the history behind these kaiju but general audiences needed some help in that regard that sadly Legendary didn’t do. General audiences maybe recognize Mothra but Ghidorah they only know as that three headed dragon thing and Rodan they don’t know at all. We should have gotten some individual hype videos for each one showing their history and how they are just as important as Godzilla.
While the Monarch Sciences viral marketing site was pretty cool and gave fans some interesting things to talk about even then I think they dropped the ball on several aspects. The biggest thing was there were several super long gaps where the site had no updates and Godzilla was kind of just swimming around doing nothing. Also they show all of the other Titan sites around the globe but then even after the film’s release did nothing with them. They missed a huge opportunity here as they could have given bios for the new Titan’s like Behemoth and Scylla as well as maybe talking about the ones we didn’t see in the film.
Looking To The Future
With ‘Godzilla Vs Kong’ on the horizon and the possibility of the continuation of the MonsterVerse I can only hope that the people in marketing over at Legendary learn from some of the mistakes from KotM and push ‘Godzilla Vs Kong’ as a huge deal. I want to see toys. I want to see wrestling/boxinf style videos where they are building up the two fighters (maybe even have a weigh in). I want that hype from 2014’s marketing push. KotM while not a complete failure was unfortunately not as big of a success as we all wanted it to be. Hopefully ‘Godzilla Vs Kong’ will be the big box office success we need for the MonsterVerse to continue on to a bright Kaiju filled future we should all want to see.