Godzilla X Kong Has A Very Reasonable Budget - That Should Be The Rule, Not The Exception

It's not cheap to make a big ass monster movie, but it sounds like Warner Bros. and Legendary did a damn fine job of being fiscally responsible with "Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire." The latest entry in the MonsterVerse franchise has a reported net (emphasis on net) budget of just $135 million. Using the word "just" sounds a little silly when talking about that much money, but considering that blockbuster budgets are so often closer to $200 million these days — if not more — this is a welcome bit of news. It also shouldn't be shocking, honestly. This should be closer to the rule, rather than the exception to it.

According to a recent report from Deadline, director Adam Wingard's "Godzilla x Kong" has a budget of $135 million (before marketing) that was 75% covered by Legendary and 25% covered by Warner Bros. The net part is important because it probably means the figure being cited is after all available tax incentives. Filming took place in Australia, with the country offering around 30% in rebates to productions that film there. So, that means the budget could have been closer to $190 million before those tax incentives. But, at the end of the day, the net is what really matters here. At $135 million, even with an expensive, robust marketing campaign, this movie is now set up for financial success.

If we're to assume Deadline's figures are correct, this would be the cheapest movie in the MonsterVerse to date. 2014's "Godzilla" ($160 million budget/$529 million box office), 2017's "Kong: Skull Island" ($185 million budget/$561 million box office), 2018's "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" ($170 million budget/$383 million box office), and 2021's "Godzilla vs. Kong" ($155 million budget/$468 million box office) all cost more to make. Typically, blockbuster sequels are more expensive, not less. So this is impressive.

If Godzilla x Kong can do it, other movies can too

The return on investment has been strong for this franchise for nearly a decade. The movies don't make $1 billion, but that shouldn't be the benchmark for success. With a "Godzilla" movie, there are ample revenue streams beyond the box office such as merchandise to consider. In any event, Legendary and WB have done a good job of not letting the budgets get out of hand, even in the aftermath of the pandemic. Somehow, Wingard and Co. managed to make this one for less with seemingly more monster action. That's commendable and should also be a sign to the rest of Hollywood: Blockbusters can be made for reasonable money.

I'm not saying no movie should cost $200 million, but that shouldn't be the default. I'm certainly sympathetic to the pandemic adding a lot to budgets, but "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" cost nearly $300 million, dooming it from the outset. If only that were an isolated incident. "Fast X" cost even more than that, which has made the "Fast & Furious" franchise entry difficult to turn a profit. There are also recent reports that Ridley Scott's "Gladiator 2" is somehow going to cost more than $300 million. How does that happen in a rational world?

The movie business is a business, and it's not hard to see that when $200 million begins to seem reasonable, we're in a bad place. While it's not an exact science, the average $200 million blockbuster probably needs to make around $600 million worldwide just to break even. That's not setting anyone up for success. That's why it was nice to see Christopher Nolan get "Oppenheimer" made for $100 million, which proved to be a great investment by Universal.

Sadly, those stories stand out because budgets have gotten out of control. But hey, the MonsterVerse is out here getting the job done in a rational way that allows everyone to benefit. We simply love to see it.

"Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire" hits theaters on March 29, 2024.