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'Godzilla' tramples rivals with monster $93 million debut

By Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Godzilla," a remake of the classic Japanese monster movie, crushed its box office competitors over the weekend, devouring $93.2 million in the United States and Canada for the year's second-biggest debut and spawning talk of a sequel.

The smashing performance makes the film a hit for Legendary Pictures, the independent studio headed by Thomas Tull that financed 75 percent of the $160 million production, and its partner Warner Bros., which said the new take on "Godzilla" was on its way to becoming a franchise.

The giant lizard trounced second-place finisher, Seth Rogen comedy "Neighbors," which led sales a week ago and earned $26 million from Friday through Sunday, ahead of superhero sequel "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" with $16.8 million, according to estimates from tracking firm Rentrak.

"Godzilla" added $103 million in international markets where it opened on Wednesday for a global total of $195 million, said Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc.

The movie is the latest Hollywood remake of the 1954 Japanese film about a mutant monster created when U.S. nuclear weapons testing goes awry. The new film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a naval officer who battles the rampaging beast from Hawaii to San Francisco.

"Godzilla" roared past industry forecasts which called for an opening of about $70 million. Its $93.2 million nipped at April's $95 million debut for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., said the film played well in all markets, which boded well for more Godzilla films.

"We have a franchise in the making, and we're looking at sequels as we speak," Fellman said.

Legendary controls the rights to future "Godzilla" installments. Warner Bros. has an option to co-finance any sequels and distribute them, according to a source with knowledge of the arrangement.

TOUGH COMPETITION

Legendary Pictures's President Jon Jashni said female and more mature audiences boosted the film's fortunes.

"Those who thought a Godzilla movie might not necessarily be for them ... and that feeds on itself," he said.

Legendary is one of Hollywood's most prolific producers of big-budget films, among them director Christopher Nolan's two "Dark Knight" installments, which the studio made with Warner Bros. Last year, Legendary reached a five-year agreement to produce films for Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures.

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2," starring Andrew Garfield, brought worldwide sales to $633 million through Sunday, said distributor Sony Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp.

New Walt Disney Co movie "Million Dollar Arm" debuted in fourth place with $10.5 million.

"Mad Men" star Jon Hamm plays a real-life sports agent who seeks to turn Indian cricket players into U.S. baseball stars in the $25 million film.

Comedy "The Other Woman" earned $6.3 million for fifth place. It was released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox.

(Editing by Sophie Hares and Eric Walsh)

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