Why Godzilla vs. Kong Is Taking Over the World

Don’t you dare tell Godzilla and King Kong that streaming companies are killing movie theaters. 

To the shock of many, the new Warner Brothers movie Godzilla vs. Kong has scored an impressive $285 million in the global box office ($48 million in the United States alone) within its first five days – even though Warner Brothers simultaneously released the movie in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming platform. While Godzilla and King Kong were wreaking havoc on screen, audiences around the world were happily watching – both in their homes and in theaters even though only 55 percent of movie theaters across the United States are open, and at reduced capacity to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols. This box office showing – easily the most impressive for any pandemic-era film – has many implications, among them: 

  • The entertainment industry is writing new rules. Conventional wisdom says that releasing a movie in theaters and on a streaming platform at the same time is a no-win strategy. This assumption drove much of the movie industry’s discomfort when Warner Brothers and Disney began to release movie titles in theaters and on streaming platforms amid dwindling theater attendance caused by the pandemic, as we’ve discussed. But the success of Godzilla vs. Kong demonstrates otherwise. Not only did the movie score big in theaters, it also set an HBO Max viewing record. The simultaneous release gives viewers choice: stay at home or go out. 
  • Other industries might be rewriting the rules, too. The success of Godzilla vs. Kong has implications for other industries that rely on live experiences, notably music. Typically recording artists who really make it big in music rely on revenue from concert tours, but of course the concert industry ground to a halt in 2020. In place of concerts, musicians have been embracing virtual formats ranging from concerts on Fortnite to virtual reality. The potential for musicians, festivals, and venues to do the same with live streaming, virtual reality, and augmented reality is potentially bigger for music than movies because it’s easier to cherry pick music content for at-home viewers – say, streaming only a portion of a concert as festivals have done for years – while protecting the value of the in-person experience. The music industry may come out even stronger with a hybrid approach once people feel safe going to concerts. 
  • Audiences have always had the final say, and they always will. The inconvenient truth for movie theaters is that ticket sales were ebbing and flowing long before the pandemic hit. Those sales are driven as much by the success of global blockbusters as anything else. All it takes is one Avengers, Black Panther, or Star Wars smash to create the rising tide that lifts all boats – in theaters and in homes. Audiences, not platforms or theaters, are the arbiter of success.

The largely untapped next frontier for movies – regardless of format – is differentiating through great customer experiences. Movie theaters are competing with dining, concierge services, and gigantic IMAX screens. Streaming companies continue to play with at-home innovations such as Netflix’s “choose-your-own adventure” interactive content. The opportunity for the industry is to harness the value of customer data to anticipate and respond to audience preferences – going beyond what shows they want to watch and considering what kind of experience will surprise and delight them. 

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It’s all about the experience. Always. Contact Asher Wren to learn more about how we can help your brand build digital experiences.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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