“Kong” Opens–But How Will It Close?
King Kong is here. The jury is still out.
Peter Jackson’s monster-sized, $200 million monster-movie remake grossed $9.8 million in its Wednesday debut, box-office analysts said.
Is that good? Is that bad? Is that Adrien Brody’s biggest opening ever?
The last question can be answered with an unqualified no. (The Village holds that distinction.) As for the others…
“It’s too early to tell whether Kong is a success or not,” BoxOfficeMojo.com’s Brandon Gray said.
Paul Dergarabedian of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co. agreed. “It’s just the beginning,” he said. “To me, it’s just the start of something.”
That Kong’s opening was neither flashy–it ranks 21st on the list of all-time Wednesday openers, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com–nor a fiasco arguably can be chalked up to the calendar. Of the top 20 Wednesday openers, only five bowed in December, including all three parts of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and of those, none bowed as early as Kong, with schools still in session and office vacations still days off.
“We’ll have a much better picture on Sunday morning,” Dergarabedian said.
While Gray wouldn’t offer a prediction as to Kong’s Friday-Sunday gross, he did guess that it wouldn’t top the stunning $65.6 million posted last weekend by The Chronicles of Narnia. Compared to Jackson’s ape epic, Narnia is shorter (two hours compared to three) and more kid-friendly (PG compared to PG-13), factors that generate more screenings, more potential audience members and, just maybe, more money.
If Kong’s opening weekend turns out to be less than king-sized, and it already is far off the pace of Jackson’s most recent movie, 2003’s Return of the King, box-office analysts still might not be ready to write it off as a disappointment. “It’s a different kind of beast,” Gray said.
Specifically, Dergarabedian referred to Kong, a 1930s-set adventure, as a “long-haul movie,” one that will rely on word of mouth and maybe some Oscar nominations to make a $200 million investment worthwhile. In other words, he said, the Titanic model.
Kong and Titanic have been linked a lot of late. Both movies were expensive to make, and time-consuming to watch. In the end, Titanic was a winner–with 11 Oscars, and the title as the world’s reigning box office champ.
But in the beginning? Titanic set sail with a solid, not spectacular, $28.6 million opening weekend. It needed 14 days to cross the $100 million mark. By comparison, Spider-Man 2 needed only eight days to break $200 million. The race, however, went to the tortoise that was Titanic, which grossed $600.8 million during an eight-month theatrical run.
To read their notices, most critics wouldn’t be troubled if Kong, starring Brody, Jack Black and beast-magnet Naomi Watts, took up a lengthy residence at the multiplex. Jami Bernard of the New York Daily News called the movie “brilliant.” Todd McCarthy of Variety called it “stupendous.” The typically understated Gene Shalit of NBC’s Today called it, um, “fabularious.”
Reviews, however, don’t necessarily sell tickets. The problem is, 2005 Hollywood isn’t sure what does. If King Kong, with its strong reviews and iconic source material, can’t turn around the studios’ year of box-office discontent, are executives bound to take headers off the Empire State Building themselves?
“I think people would be if this doesn’t bring [audiences] in,” Dergarabedian said. “But I think it’s going to perform.”
I get to see it on Friday afternoon!!
“Kong” Opens–But How Will It Close?