Third-party streaming ratings firm Samba TV reported Monday that 3.6 million households watched at least five minutes of Warner Bros/Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong on HBO Max in the pic’s first five days on the site from March 31-April 4.
While HBO Max didn’t provide any official viewership figures on Godzilla vs. Kong, previous data from Samba shows that the fourthquel’s audience was larger than previous HBO Max movies for the first four days: the Christmas weekend launch of Wonder Woman 1984 with 2.2M U.S. households (for at least five minutes) and Zack Snyder’s Justice League which clocked 1.8M U.S. HBO Max households (for at least five minutes).
Note that Samba TV only polls viewers from terrestrial smart TVs. Nonetheless, its data on Godzilla vs. Kong supports the claim made Sunday by WarnerMedia Direct-to-Consumer EVP and General Manager Andy Forssell that the movie “had a larger viewing audience than any other film or show on HBO Max since launch.”
What Warner Bros did report in pristine fashion about Godzilla vs. Kong was that it grossed $48.1 million at the domestic box office (update by Comscore) in its first five days; an undeniable hit, it heralds the comeback of moviegoing following exhibition’s closure and impairment from the year-plus-long pandemic.
Forssell also added Sunday about Godzilla vs. Kong that “the HBO Max audience has spoken very clearly and loudly: they love this film and are watching it more than once.”
There is no doubt that Warner Bros did a stellar job here bringing stateside audiences back to the cinema with Godzilla vs. Kong at a time when the pandemic was casting a shadow over moviegoing. It’s also a great box office feat by Warners considering that only 55% of the U.S.-Canada exhibition market is in operation. The combination of an event title, and a holiday weekend where 76% of kids were off from school on Friday, culminated in Godzilla vs. Kong soaring above industry five-day pre-weekend projections which were in the $20M-$30M range.
The domestic B.O. success of Godzilla vs. Kong has many takeaways: First, it clearly underscores that young males (64% guys, 52% under 25) haven’t turned their backs on going to the movies.
Next, theatrical is far and away more powerful than the number of HBO Max subscribers/viewers out there. If the audience for the service was so vibrant, why didn’t WarnerMedia release any figures? Though a slightly apples-to-oranges comparison, HBO linear and HBO Go streaming apps racked up 19.6M viewers for the series finale of Game of Thrones in May 2019 (13.6M of that figure being from the linear 9 p.m. ET broadcast).
In the same breath, many rival box office sources assert that even more money could have been made here by Godzilla vs. Kong if it wasn’t on HBO Max. Anecdotally speaking, I have HBO Max and a Regal down the street that’s playing Godzilla vs. Kong. But there was no urge to spend $80 for a family of four to go see the movie because I can watch it on HBO Max for essentially free. Now, if I didn’t have HBO Max, or if that option to watch the movie in the home wasn’t available, then definitely I’d be in the theater watching Godzilla vs. Kong. HBO costs $15 a month for me to watch their entire streaming catalog, and just my simple example here is evidence on how WarnerMedia lost $80 at the B.O. (or $40 if you want to be technical about the amount of rental cash the studio stood to earn). It can also be argued that those who watched Godzilla vs. Kong at home weren’t frequent moviegoers to begin with. Still, why give a premium event title away? Better to fuel anticipation for Godzilla vs. Kong and make everyone at home wait for it.
In all fairness, Warners will say that their theatrical day-and-date HBO slate was only for this year due to the pandemic, and that it has already hatched a deal with Regal, respecting an exclusive 45-day theatrical window for 2022, etc., etc.
But it’s important to note the cannibalization that a streaming-theatrical-day-and-date release can bring to the B.O., for the pro-streaming Wall Street analysts will only use this past weekend’s success of Godzilla vs. Kong as evidence that this novel model works.
Hearing that HBO Max subscribers already watched Godzilla vs. Kong twice can only make an exhibitor cringe: After fighting to stay alive since mid-March last year, those are lost admissions a movie theater owner will never see. My sources forecast that as more event titles, which respect the theatrical window, flood the calendar, it will be harder for these streaming-day-and-date movies to book screens. We’re still living in the anomaly of the pandemic with seating capacities (NYC still hasn’t budged beyond 25%) and 45% of U.S.-Canadian theaters remain closed.
Samba TV further reported today that 225K UK households watched Godzilla vs. Kong and that the Adam Wingard-directed fourthquel notched its biggest single-day of viewership in both the U.S. and UK on March 31.
Of those watching Godzilla vs. Kong in the U.S., its audience overindexed for those making <$50,000, as did younger viewers (under 45 years old), and Black (24%) and Hispanic (26%) viewers. Of the Top 25 markets, Sacramento overindexed the most (+40%) followed by Chicago (+23%). By comparison, WW1984 overindexed in households making over $100K, as well as households with people aged 25-54, Hispanic households (+17%) and Asian households (+14%). By the end of 2020, WW1984 had clocked 3.03M households per Samba TV.