Reviews for Warcraft The Beginning have all the hallmarks of a big budget studio misfire, despite being based on one of the biggest gaming franchises of all time, the US box office numbers appear to confirm its flop status. However, in the Middle Kingdom (China) Warcraft has amassed more than $156 million in its first five days on release.
Domestically, Warcraft grossed a little more than $24 million against a budget of $160 million (add another $100 million for marketing etc). At best, Warcraft US total will be in the $80-90 million bracket, so it’s a foregone conclusion that it will be labelled a flop from a domestic point of view. However, the international box office for Warcraft paints a very different picture. At the time of writing, Duncan Jones’ movie has taken over $285 million in overseas sales for a current total of more than $309 million worldwide.
Warcraft joins the growing ranks of poorly received studio tentpoles to bomb in the US and clean up in China. Last year Terminator: Genisys pulled in more than $116 million in tickets sales from China, and let’s not forget the $111 million that Pacific Rim made. On a side note, if it weren’t for the bumper China box office the long-gestating sequel would never have been given the go ahead. In order for a sequel to be considered, Warcraft is going to need to get to at least $500 million worldwide, and it might just do it. Full disclosure, I’m a big fan of Duncan Jones’ previous movies (Moon, Source Code), but I have no interest at all in Warcraft The Movie.
The Chinese release schedule for US movies works very differently to the rest of the world; only 20 odd US films are allowed to be shown in a given year, and China keeps 75% of the box office. China continues to grow as a key factor in the success or failure of key titles and by the end of next year, China will be the biggest movie market in the world. Earlier this year, Chinese entertainment giant Dalian Wanda bought Legendary Pictures (who co-produced Pacific Rim and Warcraft) for $3.5 billion. In addition to producing the big crowd-pleasing blockbusters that Legendary are famous for, the new venture will see more movies more bespoke for Chinese audiences. One of the first projects to be fast-tracked is the Dwayne Johnson-led Skyscraper, effectively it has been described as “Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno”.
Warcraft is out now in cinemas.