Everyone has heard of “Warcraft” (both the game and the film) but if you live in America you may have not cared to see it (in your defense, the trailers and negative reviews probably didn’t help entice you). However if you live anywhere else on this big, blue globe, namely China, you flocked to this thing like Michael Bay to a firework explosion.
“Warcraft” carries a pre-promotion budget of $160 million, which means it will need to earn (ballpark) $500 million to break even (standard blockbuster figure, and one it will likely reach). However if you were to just go off the North American box office, you would think the folks at Universal would be sweating bullets.
The based-on-a-video game-film opened to about $25 million this weekend, finishing second at the box office behind “The Conjuring 2” ($38 million). Normally when a film of this size opens in the 20-somethings, it would be disastrous. To give some context, “Terminator: Genisys” had an opening weekend gross of $27 million last July against its $155 million budget, but more on that in a minute. “Warcraft” doesn’t have strong word-of-mouth among non-fans, and most of aforementioned fans flocked out this weekend, making its likely resting domestic gross somewhere around $65 million (at best).
But it is an entirely different story in China. There, the film was one of the most anticipated of all-time ($20.7 million in pre-sales) and received the most amount of screens ever in the country (67% of them). Negative reviews didn’t steer away filmgoers, as “Warcraft” grossed $46 million on its first day and $90 million by its second. At the time of posting, the film has grossed $144.7 million in China after four days (a record), good already for 22nd all-time.
But why is all this important? Well first, it goes to confirm the days of a film needing to succeed in America to be deemed a box office success are dead and gone. Going back to “Terminator: Genisys” (god, what a stupid title), that film topped off with $89.8 million in North America but $350.8 million everywhere else (including $113.2 million in China), for a worldwide gross of $440.6 million (still considered a disappointment given its total budget). It marked the first time an American film grossed less than $100 million domestically but still topped $400 million worldwide, a feat “Warcraft” will all but likely repeat (“all but likely” is just being safe; it 100% won’t gross $100 million in the US).
So there is your next ice breaking fun fact for a party.
This also means that those who thought “Warcraft” would be a flop are seemingly wrong, for the time being, at least. Yes, those who said the film wouldn’t resonate with American audiences were right and be all accounts this thing is going to be considered a flop in the United States (anytime a triple digit budget film grosses double digits in America it’s not a *great* thing).
However the film is crushing records left and right in China (most set but “Furious 7”) and it’s very unlikely to be front-loaded (meaning it won’t fall off a cliff next week). If you want another fun talking point, the highest-ever grossing film in China is “The Mermaid,” a Chinese film which made $526.8 million (or 3.391 billion yuan) earlier this year. The highest grossing American film is “Furious 7” ($390.9M/2.426B) and if you want another random factoid, “Captain America: Civil War” is already 14th with $189.4 million (1.246 billion local currency), whereas “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” made “only” $125.7 million (825 million yuan), ranking 31st all-time.
This also affects video game movies. “Warcraft” is already the highest grossing video game movie of all-time. But also it could, and for all intents and purposes does, mean that video game films are not dead. Sure, the negative critical reception (27% on Rotten Tomatoes and 32 out of 100 on Metacritic; you can read my review here) continue the trend of “it’s impossible to make a good movie based off a video game” (our next shot at redemption comes in December with “Assassin’s Creed”), but unlike some other adaptions, “Warcraft” is going to be a financial victory. Films like “Hitman” and “Max Payne” found middling success, but nothing like “Warcraft” will likely end with. It goes to show that negative reviews don’t always translate to bad box office receipts (the “Transformers” films get trashed and all gross a billion dollars), which could be a good or bad thing depending how much of a fan of mainstream media you are.
So. If you’re reading this in America, odds are you didn’t see “Warcraft” this weekend. But if you are reading this from China, you are adored by the suits in those Los Angeles office buildings, because you saved their film from being the biggest box office flop since “Gods of Egypt,” a movie even the Chinese knew looked awful and stayed away from like it was a plague.
*All box office statistics via BoxOfficeMojo.com