- "Godzilla: King of the Monsters," which hit theaters on Friday, is the third movie in a shared universe, but Warner Bros. and Legendary have downplayed that aspect of the franchise.
- It follows 2014’s "Godzilla" and 2017’s "Kong: Skull Island," and leads into next year’s "Godzilla vs Kong." But aside from minimal connective tissue, they’re standalone movies.
- It’s a contrast to other cinematic universes that have tried to replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, such as Universal’s "Dark Universe," which was dead on arrival, and Warner Bros.’ own DC Extended Universe, which has recently course corrected with a new strategy.
- "If you microwave food, it’s not as good as when you slow cook it," the Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian said. "To get long term success, you have to have extraordinary patience."
- "King of the Monsters" is off to a strong start at the box office with $6.3 million in Thursday previews.
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"Godzilla: King of the Monsters," which hit theaters on Friday, is the third movie in a cinematic universe called the "MonsterVerse." But audiences can be forgiven if they weren’t clued in to that fact.
It follows 2014’s "Godzilla" and 2017’s "Kong: Skull Island" in a series of connected movies leading to next year’s "Godzilla vs Kong," which pits the two famous "titans" against one another. But the MonsterVerse has taken a much different journey than other shared universes. Legendary and Warner Bros., which coproduce the movies, have downplayed how connected they are compared to other franchises that jumped the gun.
In 2017, Universal announced a "Dark Universe" of movies starring its classic movie monsters like Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolfman. The studio even launched a website and cast photo (seen below) prior to the release of the first movie in the would-be franchise, "The Mummy," starring Tom Cruise. It ultimately bombed at the box office and derailed future plans for the shared universe.
"That’s a perfect example of trying to build something from the top down, and not the ground up," Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst, told Business Insider.
Warner Bros.’ own DC Extended Universe rushed into its cinematic universe with 2016’s "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad," which were torn apart by critics.
A year later, the sudden culmination of the movies, "Justice League," was supposed to be Warner Bros. and DC’s answer to Marvel’s "The Avengers." But it disappointed critically and at the box office, earning $657 million worldwide ($229 million of which came from the US) and receiving a 40% Rotten Tomatoes critic score. After "Justice League," Warner Bros. rethought its superhero movie strategy, and is now focusing on standalone stories, which has worked in its favor with the $1-billion-grossing "Aquaman" and the critical hit, "Shazam!"
Warner Bros. seems to have learned its lesson with the DCEU, which initially tried to replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to less-than-stellar results.
The MonsterVerse mostly treats its shared universe as an afterthought, save for an organization called Monarch that is the connective tissue throughout the movies. While "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" is a prerequisite to "Godzilla vs Kong," the giant ape himself is only mentioned in passing, and audiences would already have to be savvy to the franchise’s larger plans for that to have any meaning.
Warner Bros. has released three MonsterVerse movies in five years, a stark contrast to the MCU, which has released three movies a year since 2017. But the MCU has landed on an unprecedented winning formula with audiences, and the MonsterVerse is a far different beast.
"If you microwave food, it’s not as good as when you slow cook it," Dergarabedian said. "To get long term success, you have to have extraordinary patience."
So, how has the franchises’ strategy worked so far?
"Godzilla" earned $529 million worldwide off a production budget of $160 million. "Kong: Skull Island" was made for $185 million and grossed $566 million worldwide. "King of the Monsters," which cost $200 million to make, is off to a strong start and earned $6.3 million in Thursday previews, more than the $3.7 million "Skull Island" earned but less than the $9 million "Godzilla" made. It’s projected to earn around $55 million over the weekend.
Those aren’t massive numbers, but they’re good enough to keep the franchise afloat until "Godzilla vs Kong" next year. Beyond that, the franchise’s future is unknown — and that’s probably how Legendary and Warner Bros. want to keep it.
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