"Godzilla" pulverized the Thursday night box office, racking up a mighty $9.3 million domestically.
The film will now expand to 4,000 domestic locations, where it is expected to cast a big shadow across the multiplexes.
The latenight gross from 3,400 locations included $2.1 million from Imax sites. The sterling opening ranks among the 20 biggest midnight debuts in history, right ahead of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" ($9 million) and behind "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" ($10.2 million) in 19th place.
With such a roaring start, "Godzilla" should generate north of $70 million in ticket sales this weekend. The "King of the Monsters" could end up setting a monster movie opening weekend record, taking the crown from "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," which opened to $72 million in 1997.
The latest reboot of the decades-old monster was filmed for $160 million and directed by Gareth Edwards ("Monsters"). Reviews for the Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. co-production have been strong, with "Godzilla" currently enjoying a 75 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Pre-release ticket sales have been brisk. Fandango reported Thursday that the film wa outselling "Thor: The Dark World," "World War Z," "Prometheus," and "Pacific Rim" at the same point in the advance sales cycle and represents more than 80 percent of this weekend's sales for the ticketer.
Because of its origins in Japanese monster movies, "Godzilla" is expected to play well on a global basis. To that end, Warner Bros. and Legendary are planning a massive worldwide rollout this weekend, opening the film in 64 territories, including such key markets as France, Germany, Russia, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and the U.K.
Domestically, it will square off against "Million Dollar Arm," Walt Disney Studios' new inspirational sports movie, as well as the second and third weekends of the raunchy comedy "Neighbors" and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," respectively.
Filmed for an economical $25 million, "Million Dollar Arm" is expected to gross in the low-teens in its initial weekend of release.
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