'Godzilla' takes in $93.2 million for 2nd-best opening weekend of 2014

"Godzilla" towered over the competition at the box office this weekend, as Gareth Edwards' update on the classic Japanese monster tale defied industry expectations to post the second-biggest opening of the year.

Though prerelease audience surveys indicated the film would debut with around $70 million, the sci-fi tale instead grossed $93.2 million, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros. The only other film to have a stronger opening in 2014 was "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," which launched with $95 million last month.


"Godzilla," however, did stronger 3-D business than any other film at the multiplex this year. About 51% of those who saw the film this weekend opted to shell out a few extra bucks to see it in 3-D -- compared with the 44% who opted for the 3-D version of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" earlier this month. "Godzilla" also did particularly well on IMAX screens, with 15% of the film's gross coming from the large-format screens.

Critics have been fond of "Godzilla," as the film currently has a 72% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And this weekend moviegoers indicated they liked the picture, too, assigning it an average grade of B+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The opening weekend audience was 58% male and 60% over age 25.

Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution, said the movie appealed to an ethnically diverse audience as well.

"The picture played extremely well in small towns and Hispanic and urban areas, which I think tracking services overlooked in predicting our potential," said Fellman. "It was well-received in urban areas because it lent itself to that audience -- it had action, it was PG-13 and was a fun family event."

"Godzilla," of course, is no stranger to the big screen. The 335-foot-tall monster first appeared in Ishiro Honda's 1954 Japanese film and was reimagined for American audiences in 1998, when Roland Emmerich's critically panned version took in $379 million worldwide. The latest "Godzilla" incarnation, which stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron-Taylor Johnson, sees the towering creature battling against a new monster -- a Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, or M.U.T.O.

The picture cost a pretty penny to produce: $160 million, about 75% of which was financed by Thomas Tull's Legendary Pictures, with Warner Bros. putting up the rest.

But even if the film tapers off domestically over Memorial Day weekend -- when it will be forced to contend with the formidable "X-Men: Days of Future Past" -- it should continue to do excellent business abroad. This weekend, the film had the biggest international opening weekend of the year, grossing $103 million from 64 foreign markets. The movie performed best in Britain, where it collected $10.4 million, as well as in Russia, Mexico and Australia. The film doesn't open in Japan until July, where it will be released by Toho -- the company that distributed the original "Godzilla" series.

The only other new film that dared to go up against "Godzilla" this weekend was "Million Dollar Arm," Walt Disney Pictures' inspirational baseball tale. The sports picture failed to attract a broad audience this weekend, opening with $10.5 million. Fortunately, Disney spent only $25 million to make the film.

"Million Dollar Arm" is based on the true story of J.B. Bernstein (played by Jon Hamm), a sports agent who traveled to India in 2007 in hopes of finding a superstar pitcher. He launched a competition there and its top two contenders, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel (Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal), were brought back to the U.S. and ultimately picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This weekend, the movie appealed to a largely older crowd, as 73% of those who saw it were over age 25. Though the film only earned middling critical reviews, moviegoers gave it an average grade of A-.

Hamm has his first leading role in "Million Dollar Arm," as the 43-year-old has previously been best known for playing ad executive Don Draper on AMC's "Mad Men." But despite the film's so-so opening, the actor's career won't take a hit, believes Disney's executive vice president of distribution Dave Hollis.

"He owns the role and I think he comes off as a movie star, as much as he hasn't had experience as a movie star," said Hollis. "This helps him get a step closer to getting the bigger roles."

In India, where the picture opened last weekend, the movie has only sold $439,000 in tickets. While the country's moviegoers tend to gravitate toward 3-D, action-heavy fare, films about Indians have done well there before; after earning a slew of Academy Award nominations, 2008's "Slumdog Millionaire" grossed more than $7 million.

"The sensibility in India has always been very specific to Bollywood films," Hollis said. "No one came into 'Million Dollar Arm' thinking 'This will be the one that cracks India.' If we get to $1 million there, that will be a win."