The Netflix offer undoubtedly had allure for Legendary, which financed 75 percent of the budget. As Netflix does not have a presence in China, the film could have played theatrically there.
The monsterverse movies, which are the cornerstone of Legendary’s slate, are big international players, especially in China: Just over a third of King of the Monsters’ $386 million global box office came from the movie’s China release. Skull Island grossed $168 million in China, about 30 percent of the movie’s $567 million gross.
Godzilla vs. Kong, the fourth entry in the series, is slated for a May 21, 2021 opening but it is far from clear that U.S. theaters will be fully back in business by then and even if they are, the studios face a pile-up of major releases that were pushed due to the pandemic. Meanwhile Legendary is stuck with the cost of carrying an unreleased big-budget film. Though Warner Bros. has only a 25 percent stake in the movie, it controls the release.
Decisions on the movie’s fate are being handled at the highest level, with WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar and Warner Bros. chairman Ann Sarnoff figuring out an offer for a streaming release on HBO Max that in theory also includes a theatrical component. (On Nov. 18, WarnerMedia said that tentpole Wonder Woman 1984 would bow in theaters on Dec. 25 and be available to stream on HBO Max in a deal that Kilar described as "unprecedented.")
Legendary’s monster movies began with 2014’s Godzilla, which rebooted the franchise featuring the Japanese nuclear-created lizard and nabbed $514 million globally in theaters. Then 2017's Kong: Skull Island re-introduced audiences to King Kong. The last entry released was 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Godzilla vs. Kong was directed by Adam Wingard, who cut his teeth with low-budget thrillers and horror flicks, and features actors Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall and Kyle Chandler.