The latest movie to feature the world’s most-famous fictional ape cost at least $185 million to produce before marketing, so it will need to roar loudly around the globe.
Warner Bros. and Legendary’s Kong: Skull Island is winning the North American box office race ahead of Logan, grossing $20.2 million on Friday from 3,846 theaters for a projected $52 million-$54 million debut.
That wouldn’t be the most spectacular start considering the tentpole boasts a hefty production budget of at least $185 million before marketing costs, or that Kong will far from match Logan‘s $88.4 million domestic opening a week ago.
The good news: Heading into the weekend, some thought Logan could beat Kong in what would have been a bruising blow for Legendary and Warners.
From 20th Century Fox, Logan earned an estimated $10.5 million Friday for a projected $36 million-$37 million weekend and global total approaching or crossing $350 million through Sunday.
Legendary and Warners likely didn’t count on Logan having such a sharp bite. And the situation won’t improve next weekend when Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opens. Kong hopes to have a long run despite the competition, thanks to strong reviews. Audiences gave the film a B+ CinemaScore.
Like Logan, Kong is skewing male (56 percent).
Overseas, Skull Island is setting sail in 61 foreign markets, minus China, where it rolls out March 24, for a projected international debut in the low- to mid-$80 million range. Kong grossed $12 million on Wednesday and Thursday from its first 43 markets.
Kong: Skull Island is the second title in Legendary and Warners’ monster universe after Godzilla, the 2014 summer tentpole that opened to $94 million after earning $9 million in previews, and is the first movie featuring the iconic ape since Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong. (Jackson’s film was infamous for costing north of $200 million.)
This time out, the story is set entirely on the island where the animal resides alongside a bevy of other oversized creatures. Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts in his first studio assignment, is set in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War, when a government agent assembles a team to investigate the mysterious, fog-shrouded locale. The ensemble cast includes Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and John Goodman.
Kong: Skull Island is the only movie launching nationwide this weekend.