'King Kong' a Gentle Giant on Opening Day

by Brandon Gray
Naomi Watts in King Kong
December 15, 2005

Relative to industry and media expectations, Universal Pictures' King Kong was a big softy on opening day, grabbing $9.8 million from around 7,500 screens at 3,567 playdates.

"We think the numbers are fine," countered Nikki Rocco, Universal's head of distribution. "We think we had a great kickoff to a film that we known has great playability. Based on word-of-mouth we're confident it only gets better from here."

Director Peter Jackson's $207 million remake of the 1933 monster movie notched the 21st biggest Wednesday opening on record, significantly less than the $18.2 million start of Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Prior to the debut, Universal had suggested Fellowship as a benchmark.

"Kong didn't break any records," Rocco said. "But I think exhibition is thrilled. There were no kids out of school, and there were terrible weather conditions. Kong's not a built-in franchise. It's not a geeky kind of thing. It wasn't a record breaker, but it's a solid start. A million and half people [from opening day] will be spreading word-of-mouth. I think we're going to have a fabulous weekend."

A mid-week launch of King Kong's magnitude in December prior to Christmas lacks much precedent. The Lord of the Rings pictures each opened on Wednesdays, but they struck a little later in December as the Christmas movie-going season was heating up. Rocco noted that vacation for the nation's schools doesn't start until Monday, when 42 percent will be out.

The Wednesday launch of a hyped event picture will normally equal around 25 percent to 50 percent of the opening weekend. The most notable exception was Shrek 2. The fractured fairy tale sequel began with an $11.8 million Wednesday but went on to enjoy a $108 million opening weekend.

Additionally, King Kong bowed in 36 foreign territories on Wednesday and racked up an estimated $8 million, bringing its worldwide opening day to about $17.8 million.

12/13/05 - 'King Kong' Looms with Monster Release
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12/12/05 - 'Brokeback Mountain' Riding High in Limited Release

11/21/05 - Harry Potter's 'Goblet' Runneth Over with Cash
Review - 'King Kong'

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