LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s “Godzilla vs. Kong” has set a China release date of March 26, five days ahead of its U.S. debut in theatres and on streaming.
The past two instalments of the franchise have made more money in China than in North America, and with U.S. cinemas still closed in much of the country and taking a continuous beating from the COVID-19 pandemic, the same can be expected for the latest Adam Wingard-directed title.
Its China release, which will almost assuredly be its largest theatrical outing globally, comes amid beef between. Legendary, a subsidiary of China’s Wanda Group, and Warner Bros., its U.S. distributor. The former threatened legal action against the latter over its decision to release all of its 2021 films on HBO Max day-and-date with their theatrical debut. Warner Bros. had to exacerbate bad blood by reportedly blocking a Netflix bid to buy the approximately $200 million-budgeted film for $250 million.
Starring Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown and Rebecca Hall, the fourth title in Legendary Entertainment’s MonsterVerse pits Godzilla against King Kong for a special effects extravaganza.
A new trailer cut specifically for China features footage that hasn’t appeared in prior ones. The minute-long sneak peek emphasizes the relationship between King Kong and a small girl who helps control him, as well as the monster’s desire to protect her. The trailer forgoes opening with effects-heavy fights and explosions for a quieter, more emotional start, beginning with a sun-dappled scene of King Kong yawning himself awake and the line, “He trusts her.” Monster and girl then sign the word “family” to each other.
Emotional films about down-and-out children, families or saving loved ones have done well recently at the China box office — whether that’s “Hi, Mom” or “A Writer’s Odyssey,” both currently leading the box office, or “Capernaum,” the Lebanese arthouse title that earned blockbuster bucks in the territory.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” is a sequel to Michael Dougherty’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” which made $135 million in China, $25 million more than it did in North America. The franchise’s “Godzilla” film earned $77.6 million in China in 2014, at a time when the country had far fewer screens.
The Peter Jackson-directed “King Kong,” which is not part of the MonsterVerse, grossed $12.7 million in China back in 2006. Over a decade later, China sales matched and ever so slightly exceeded U.S. grosses for 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island.” It earned $168 million in the mainland, $200,000 more than in North America.
After shifting the release date for “Godzilla vs. Kong” around repeatedly to suit the circumstances of COVID-19, Warner Bros. landed on a March 31 debut in North America and on HBO Max. The streaming platform currently has no plans to operate in the China market, where the government maintains strict controls over the web.
Watch the China trailer below here.