LOS ANGELES — Even Godzilla needs a rest.
The hard-working lizard, trudging back to wide release in North American theaters for a fifth time in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” managed to sell about $49 million in tickets over the weekend, enough for first place. But the Legendary Entertainment sequel will nonetheless go down as the first big-budget disappointment of Hollywood’s summer season.
“King of the Monsters” cost at least $170 million to make, not including $100 million (plus) in global marketing costs. Initial ticket sales in the United States and Canada fell behind those for its series predecessor by 47 percent, according to Comscore data. Critics were not kind. “Beyond the awesome destruction, it’s not easy to build the character, story, emotion — the glue that sustains a series — when it’s all about the monster,” said David A. Gross, who runs Franchise Entertainment Research, a movie consultancy.
But there is no rest for the weary in today’s franchise-fixated film business, in part because monsters still draw big crowds overseas, where Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah and pals collected about $130 million over the weekend. “Godzilla vs. Kong” has already been scheduled for release in March.
“Aladdin” (Disney) was a strong second in its second weekend. It took in about $42 million at theaters in North America, for a new total of $185 million ($446 worldwide).
The R-rated musical fantasy “Rocketman,” about Elton John’s breakthrough years, collected an estimated $25 million in third place for Paramount Pictures. The studio said that the zany bio-musical took in an additional $19 million in 40 overseas markets, lifting its international total to $31 million.
Imagery of gay sex and a credits sequence involving Mr. John’s husband and children were censored in Russia. In a statement on Twitter, the singer called the censorship a “sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people.”
The initial box-office results pleased Paramount, which spent roughly $41 million to produce “Rocketman,” which stars Taron Egerton and was directed by Dexter Fletcher. The studio hopes that positive word of mouth will allow the well-reviewed film to hold on to theaters in the competitive weeks ahead, allowing it to ultimately deliver results on par with “A Star Is Born” and “The Greatest Showman.”
“A Star Is Born,” which had the benefit of two major stars (Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper) and awards attention, had about $215 million in domestic ticket sales. “The Greatest Showman,” which was rated PG, collected $174 million.
[Read our “Rocketman” review.]
Boding well: Turnout for “Rocketman” was gender balanced — almost evenly — and ticket buyers gave the film an A-minus grade in CinemaScore exit polls. Most of the audience was over the age of 30, which Hollywood considers old.
Also opening in wide release over the weekend was “Ma,” a horror movie starring Octavia Spencer. The movie, made for about $5 million by Blumhouse and Universal, sold about $18.3 million in tickets, according to Comscore.