Why A Godzilla Vs. Kong Sequel Might Be A Huge Risk

We recently got the somewhat unexpected news that a sequel to last year's "Godzilla vs. Kong" is on the way. It's not so much that getting another entry in Legendary and Warner Bros.' so-called MonsterVerse was a big surprise, but the fact that they are not wasting any time at all and getting production going in Australia this year was actually a bit surprising. But the giant monster brawl between King Kong and Godzilla was a big hit, so why not? After all, modern Hollywood is fueled largely by reliable franchises.

That having been said, there is perhaps reason to wonder if there is a bit more risk involved in making another entry in this series right now than people are discussing. While "Godzilla vs. Kong" was a hit and performed better both critically and commercially than its predecessor, "Godzilla: King of the Monsters," it was a hit predicated largely on becoming a big success in China, which is a complicated factor in the modern theatrical marketplace, and one that can't be depended on moving forward.

A hit made a hit by China

"Godzilla vs. Kong" was one of the first Hollywood blockbusters to actually hit theaters in the pandemic era, and came at a time when vaccinations were finally starting to roll out across the U.S. It was a big test for the industry and one that worked out for the best. Reviews were far better than they were for "King of the Monsters" as director Adam Wingard directed the monster beat-em-up audiences wanted (and arguably needed) at that time. It panned out financially, perhaps better than anyone might have guessed given the uncertainty of the box office at that moment in time.

"Godzilla vs. Kong" made a total of $467.8 million during its theatrical run, far exceeding that of "King of the Monsters," which topped out at just $383 million, and it didn't have a pandemic to contend with. Looking at the raw figures, a sequel seems like a foregone conclusion. That having been said, $188.7 million of that money came from China, and therein lies the potential problem. China is the largest moviegoing market in the world but ever since the pandemic hit, it's been increasingly difficult for Hollywood studios to get movies released in the country. Yes, admittedly, a "Godzilla" and/or "King Kong" movie has a better shot than almost any other Hollywood product at securing an eventual release, but there are no guarantees in that department anymore.

If we take that $188 million away from the final total, the narrative around "GvK" changes dramatically. $280 million is not a hit for a big-budget monster movie, and therein lies the problem. If for some reason the eventual sequel can't secure a release in China, its financial prospects are suddenly not all that great. And even if a movie gets a release in the country now, there are no guarantees. "The Batman" recently learned that lesson the hard way, making just $12 million in China on its opening weekend, with so many of the theaters being closed again due to Covid. These are issues that the next MonsterVerse movie could be facing.

The possible issue in the US

Another potential issue worth discussing is the fact that "Godzilla vs. Kong," like all of Warner Bros.' movies released in 2021, was made available both in theaters and on HBO Max at no extra charge to subscribers in what was dubbed "Project Popcorn." Granted, the monster flick still made $100 million domestically during its run but it's easy to forget that there was virtually zero competition at that time as Warner Bros. was testing the waters with this one. It was the only game in town and a chunk of moviegoers were eager to get back to theaters for a blockbuster. So the HBO Max release didn't impact it as much at the time as it otherwise might have.

One thing that has resulted from new movies being made available to stream is that people now have an expectation that will happen. Just comb through Twitter when any new release is only in theaters and see how many people are expressing their desire to watch it at home right away. Given that "GvK" was available to stream right off the bat last time, there is at least a chance an expectation was set in that department and, in North America anyhow, people might be irritated that it is exclusively in theaters and not available on VOD. But the fact of the matter is we have enough data to know that big movies stand to make more money with exclusive theatrical runs first.

This is somewhat speculative but there is at least a chance that setting that expectation with the previous film could impact the box office for this inevitable sequel. Or, when the sequel inevitably faces more competition in a more stable theatrical marketplace, it may have a tougher time getting to $100 million or so domestically. It at least needs to be considered.

A risk probably worth taking

All of this having been said, there are no guarantees these days and with things being the way they are, big movies are going to inherently come with more risk than they used to. "Godzilla vs. Kong" built up good will with the franchise and the studios have reason to believe there is an audience for future installments. After all, we are getting a MonsterVerse TV show for Apple TV+ as well (though that may contribute to the "I can watch this at home" issue). In an era with very few safe bets, this is a franchise that has managed to last eight years across four films taking in nearly $2 billion worldwide, not to mention a great deal of merchandising. There is going to be more risk with this next entry, but it is probably, at the end of the day, a risk worth taking.

The untitled "Godzilla vs. Kong" sequel does not yet have a release date.