LOS ANGELES (NYTIMES) - Moviegoers sent a message to Hollywood over the weekend: We are ready to return to the cinemas - and we will buy tickets even if the same film is instantly available in our living rooms - but we want to leave our grim world for a silly fantasy one.
Godzilla Vs Kong, a throwback monster movie in which a lizard with atomic breath battles a computer-generated ape on top of an aircraft carrier (before everyone decamps to the hollow centre of Earth), took in an estimated US$48.5 million (S$62.3 million) at 3,064 North American cinemas between Wednesday (March 31) and Sunday. It was the largest turnout (by far) for a movie since the pandemic began.
The PG-13 movie was not even an exclusive offering to cinemas.
Godzilla Vs Kong, produced by Legendary Entertainment, was also available on HBO Max, a streaming service that sells monthly subscriptions for US$15, less than the cost of one adult ticket at cinemas in major cities.
"People seem ready for emotional release, to experience that human connectivity - laughing together, getting scared together - and complete transportation that only movie theatres can provide," Ms Mary Parent, Legendary's vice-chairman and head of worldwide production, said in a phone interview.
Overseas, Godzilla Vs Kong collected US$236.9 million, including a strong US$136 million in China, a market that has lately preferred local movies over imported ones.
The movie has not yet opened in other major markets, such as Japan and Brazil.
Some box office analysts were reluctant to declare a recovery for Hollywood, noting that coronavirus cases have been rising again in the United States and that parts of Europe have returned to lockdown.
Mr David Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, a film consultancy, said the turnout between Friday and Sunday - while a "clear and positive indication that moviegoing has inherent strengths that aren't going away" - was nonetheless "half of what it would have been under normal circumstances".
About 93 per cent of theatres in the US have been cleared to open, but government guidelines limit capacity to 50 per cent and, in some big cities, 25 per cent.
The majority of theatres in Canada remain closed.