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‘Kong’ scares up $18 million in one day

Yet ticket sales didn’t meet expectations
/ Source: Reuters

Big budget epic “King Kong” generated nearly $18 million in its Wednesday debut at global box offices, but U.S. and Canadian ticket sales fell below the expectations held by some industry watchers.

Executives at Universal Studios, distributor of the roughly $200 million movie, played down opening day domestic ticket sales of $9.8 million Thursday, saying they expected business to pick up this weekend and throughout the holidays.

Box office experts agreed that competitive factors worked against “Kong” Wednesday. Many children -- its primary audience -- are still in school and “Kong” is not a sequel to a blockbuster such as the “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter,” movies to which it has been compared.

“It’s a little too early to say what this means for ’King Kong,”’ said Gitesh Pandya of “Based on exit polls ... fans who did come out are all loving it.”

He compared the “Kong” domestic box office to $18 million for 2001’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” but noted “Rings” debuted later in December when more children were out of school and benefited from the huge fan base for the J.R.R. Tolkien novels from which it was derived.

Kong vs. Godzilla?In a monster-to-monster comparison, Pandya said “Kong” might be 1998’s “Godzilla,” which took in $8.4 million a Wednesday debut in May. But “Godzilla” suffered from poor reviews and fan disapproval.

“Kong” has earned praise from critics and positive buzz from fans.

Hollywood lore is filled with similar tales including that of “Titanic,” which in its December 1997 debut ran virtually neck-and-neck with James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies” before eventually steaming ahead to become the top grossing movie of all time with $1.8 billion in global ticket sales.

Universal said they were elated with fan reaction and felt it was a harbinger for solid ticket sales ahead.

“It’s a great way to start out,” said Nikki Rocco, who heads Universal’s domestic distribution. “With $10 million and 1.5 million people out there talking about how great it is, it all works to build what we think will be a holiday smash hit.”

In international territories, “Kong” racked up $8 million in its debut in 36 regions. It will expands to 19 more regions, including the United Kingdom, Korea and Mexico.

David Kosse, Universal’s president of international marketing and distribution, said the “Kong” debut set records throughout Southeast Asia, and led Universal to its biggest opening day in the United Arab Emirates, Denmark and Russia.

Universal Studios is a division of the NBC Universal media wing of General Electric Co.