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The theatrical box office has been so empty for more than a year there are basically tumbleweeds rolling through it. Most of the movies that have hit theaters have been smaller productions that were never expected to set records, as all the movies that need strong box office to succeed have been continually delayed waiting for that time that people are both willing and able to return to theaters. But with the release of Godzilla vs. Kong, it appears that time may have finally come, and the studio has reacted to its risky arrival.
Prior to the release of Godzilla vs. Kong most of the focus was on the fact that the movie was seeing a simultaneous release in theaters and on HBO Max. But what's clear from the nearly $50 million domestic box office opening is that the streaming release didn't harm the box office all that much, if at all. This could signal that day-and-date releases could become the norm, as the box office is still able to survive even alongside a streaming release. Legendary, the studio behind Godzilla vs. Kong, sees this more a clear win for the box office. Studio CEO Joshua Grode recently told THR,
I think a big movie like this working should tell everyone that if we are rational in how we release the movies, there is an appetite for a shared experience in a theater.
Depending on one's point of view, the success of Godzilla vs. Kong could be seen as a win for streaming services and day-and-date releases. As clearly in the case of Godzilla vs. Kong, that did not result in the torpedo in the side of box office receipts that many were afraid would happen. Legendary itself was especially considered when WarnerMedia announced its plans to release all Warner Bros. movies in 2021 on to HBO Max at the same time they were in theaters. The fate of Legendary's other big WB release this year, Dune is still being discussed and might not arrive on the service as originally announced.
Godzilla Vs. Kong is currently streaming for a limited time on HBO Max. You can use this link to sign up for the streaming service.
It seems that overall, and especially from Legendary, the box office success of Godzilla vs. Kong is being taken first and foremost as evidence that theatrical distribution is still strong and that is still the best way to release big movies. WarnerMedia has recently confirmed what the company has been saying all along, that the HBO Max decision in 2021 was made solely due to the circumstances following the pandemic. And in 2022, all its studio releases will go back to a theatrical first model.
Having said that, there appear to be no plans to pull movies from streaming this year. Other studios also have day-and-date plans for films at least for the next couple of months. While everybody seems committed to this idea ending in general, exactly when that will happen is far less clear.