How the Godzilla 'MonsterVerse' has avoided the cinematic-universe curse, and what to expect next

Warner Bros.‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters.’
  • “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” which hit theatres Friday, is the third movie in a shared universe, but Warner Bros. and Legendary have downplayed that aspect of the franchise.
  • It follows 2014’s “Godzilla” and 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island,” and it leads into next year’s “Godzilla vs. Kong.” But they hold up as standalone movies, with only minimal connective tissue.
  • It’s a contrast to other cinematic universes that have tried to replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Those include Universal’s “Dark Universe,” which was dead on arrival, and Warner Bros.’ own DC Extended Universe, which has recently course corrected with a new strategy.
  • “If you microwave food, it’s not as good as when you slow-cook it,” the Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian said. “To get long-term success, you have to have extraordinary patience.”
  • “King of the Monsters” topped the box office over the weekend but fell slightly below expectations with $US49 million.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” which hit theatres Friday, is the third movie in a cinematic universe called the “MonsterVerse.” But audiences can be forgiven if they weren’t clued in to that fact.

It follows 2014’s “Godzilla” and 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island” in a series of connected movies leading to next year’s “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which pits the two “titans” against each other. But the MonsterVerse has taken a much different journey than other shared universes. Legendary and Warner Bros., which coproduce the movies, have downplayed how connected they are compared with other franchises.

Read more: 8 movie franchises that tried to copy Marvel’s cinematic-universe strategy – and how they fared at the box office

In 2017, Universal announced a “Dark Universe” of movies starring its classic movie monsters like Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolfman. The studio even launched a website and cast photo (seen below) before the release of the first movie in the would-be franchise, “The Mummy,” starring Tom Cruise. It ultimately bombed at the box office and derailed plans for the shared universe.

“That’s a perfect example of trying to build something from the top down, and not the ground up,” Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, told Business Insider.

Dark Universe Marco Grob Universal finalMarco Grob/UniversalUniversal’s ‘Dark Universe’ was dead on arrival.

Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe rushed into its cinematic universe with 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” which were torn apart by critics.

A year later, the sudden culmination of the movies, “Justice League,” was supposed to be Warner Bros. and DC’s answer to Marvel’s “The Avengers.” But it disappointed critically and at the box office, earning $US657 million worldwide ($US229 million of which came from the US) and receiving a 40% Rotten Tomatoes critic score. After “Justice League,” Warner Bros. rethought its superhero-movie strategy and is now focusing on standalone stories, which has worked in its favour with the $US1-billion-grossing “Aquaman” and the critical hit “Shazam!”

Warner Bros. seems to have learned its lesson with the DCEU, which initially tried to replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to less-than-stellar results.

The MonsterVerse mostly treats its shared universe as an afterthought, save for an organisation called Monarch that is the connective tissue throughout the movies. While “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is a prerequisite to “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the giant ape himself is mentioned only in passing, and audiences would already have to be savvy to the franchise’s larger plans for that to have any meaning.

King Kong skull islandLegendary Pictures‘Kong: Skull Island.’

Warner Bros. has released three MonsterVerse movies in five years, a stark contrast to the MCU, which has released three movies a year since 2017. But the MCU has landed on an unprecedented winning formula with audiences, and the MonsterVerse is a far different beast.

“If you microwave food, it’s not as good as when you slow-cook it,” Dergarabedian said. “To get long-term success, you have to have extraordinary patience.”

So, how has the franchise’s strategy worked so far?

“Godzilla” earned $US529 million worldwide off a production budget of $US160 million. “Kong: Skull Island” was made for $US185 million and grossed $US566 million worldwide.

“King of the Monsters,” which cost $US200 million to make, got off to a strong start and earned $US6.3 million in Thursday previews, more than the $US3.7 million “Skull Island” earned but less than the $US9 million “Godzilla” made. It ultimately topped the box office over the weekend but fell slightly below expectations with $US49 million, far less than the $US93 million opening for “Godzilla” in 2014. It was projected to earn about $US55 million.

Those aren’t massive numbers, but they’re good enough to keep the franchise afloat until “Godzilla vs. Kong” next year. Beyond that, the franchise’s future is unknown – and that’s probably how Legendary and Warner Bros. want to keep it.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.