Darwin's theory of evolution was never more in play than in the movie business. Films and franchises that adapt to the changing environment survive, while those that do not wither and die.
One week ago, Godzilla had an impressive opening weekend, but it was playing in an environment with much smaller prey that included Neighbors and Million Dollar Arm.
This weekend a much larger carnivore entered Filmassic Park, that being X-Men: Days of Future Past. It took in $91 million through Sunday domestically, whereas Godzilla added only $31.4 million. X-Men bit off a massive 66 percent of Godzilla's box office receipts from the previous weekend. That was quite an impressive feat, given Godzilla's girth.
X-Men was able to vanquish the beast for several reasons. First, it was better adapted to this environment. It was based upon a proven franchise that had a large built-in audience base. Godzilla, on the other hand, did not have a built-in fan base. Its audience was comprised of those who saw less than stellar remakes of the past few decades. Few remembered the original landmark 1954 Godzilla film that was the best of all.
X-Men had great production values (such as special effects), good marketing and a cohesive, heartfelt character driven story reflected in its "A" CinemaScore rating from audiences. Audiences cared about what happened to these characters because they knew them well from previous successful films. X-Men: Days of Future Past, provided the added angst of killing these beloved characters, and then resurrecting them through the benefits of time travel which reset the X-Men universe (a very smart move for the future of the franchise). As I referenced in a previous blog, Godzilla had great production spectacle and marketing, but a so-so story that did not generate as much audience empathy for its characters (B+ CinemaScore).
X-Men had timing, a critical component for evolution. It hit the theaters a week after Godzilla, over a big Memorial Day weekend, which made X-Men look fresh, energetic and ready for battle. In comparison, Godzilla looked exhausted from all of the marketing leading up to its first weekend.
How long X-Men: Days of Future Past will be able to roam free cannot be foretold with accuracy. Next weekend another carnivore enters the fray, one that is as deadly as Godzilla but with far more cunning, Maleficent. She is coming for X-Men and it will be an epic battle between powers born from science and those born from sorcery. Perhaps as these immense forces battle each other another film will watch from the sidelines and benefit from the bloodbath, that being A Million Ways to Die in the West.
Darwin would have watched with great enthusiasm.