'Godzilla' tramples rivals with monster $93 million debut

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK Sun May 18, 2014 7:29pm EDT

Cast members Bryan Cranston (L), Elizabeth Olsen (C) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson pose at the premiere of ''Godzilla'' at the Dolby theatre in Hollywood, California May 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Cast members Bryan Cranston (L), Elizabeth Olsen (C) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson pose at the premiere of ''Godzilla'' at the Dolby theatre in Hollywood, California May 8, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Godzilla," a remake of the classic Japanese monster movie, crushed its box office competitors over the weekend, devouring $93.2 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters for the year's second-biggest debut and spawning plans for a sequel.

The smashing performance makes the film a hit for Legendary Pictures, the independent studio headed by Thomas Tull that financed 75 percent of the $160 million production, and its partner Warner Bros., which said the new take on "Godzilla" was on its way to becoming a franchise.

The giant lizard trounced second-place finisher, Seth Rogen comedy "Neighbors," which led sales a week ago and earned $26 million from Friday through Sunday, ahead of superhero sequel "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" with $16.8 million, according to estimates from tracking firm Rentrak.

"Godzilla" added $103 million in international markets where it opened on Wednesday for a global total of $195 million, said Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc.

The movie is the latest Hollywood remake of the 1954 Japanese film about a mutant monster created when U.S. nuclear weapons testing goes awry. The new film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a naval officer who battles the rampaging beast from Hawaii to San Francisco.

"Godzilla" roared past industry forecasts which called for an opening of about $70 million. Its $93.2 million nipped at April's $95 million debut for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier".

Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., said the film played well in all markets, which boded well for more Godzilla films down the line.

"We have a franchise in the making, and we're looking at sequels as we speak," Fellman said.

TOUGH COMPETITION

Legendary Pictures's President Jon Jashni said the film's fortunes were boosted by female and more mature audiences.

"Those who thought a Godzilla movie might not necessarily be for them ... and that feeds on itself," he said.

Legendary is one of Hollywood's most prolific producers of big-budget films, among them director Christopher Nolan's two "Dark Knight" installments, which the studio made with Warner Bros. Last year, Legendary reached a five-year agreement to produce films for Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures.

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2," starring Andrew Garfield as the web-slinging superhero, brought worldwide sales to $633 million through Sunday, according to distributor Sony Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp. New Walt Disney Co movie "Million Dollar Arm" debuted in fourth place with $10.5 million.

"Mad Men" star Jon Hamm plays a real-life sports agent who seeks to turn Indian cricket players into U.S. baseball stars in the $25 million film.

Comedy "The Other Woman" earned $6.3 million for fifth place. It stars Cameron Diaz, Kate Upton and Leslie Mann as women who seek revenge on a cheating husband and was released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox.

(Editing by Sophie Hares and Eric Walsh)

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