The days of the American box office being the “be all, end all” for Hollywood blockbusters are long over, as was sharply demonstrated by the Chinese release of Warcraft. The orc-packed spectacle has been the subject of scathing reviews and lukewarm (at best) fan support in North America, but it’s storming the box office in China.
Warcraft brought in a whopping $46 million on its opening Wednesday, and it’s expected the film could bring in as much as $160 million in China by the end of the weekend. That’s pretty impressive, although Warcraft is playing with a somewhat stacked deck in China. Legendary Pictures, the studio that produced Warcraft, is owned by Chinese megacorp Dalian Wanda, and has worked closely with the state-run Chinese Film Group in the past (Legendary-produced movies Pacific Rim and Godzilla were also big hits in China). Basically, what movies make it big in China can be largely decided by the powers that be, and they all lined up behind Warcraft. That said, the box office results Warcraft is seeing wouldn’t be possible without some legitimate fan support – World of Warcraft was one of the first online multiplayer games allowed in China, and still has a big following there.
Unfortunately Warcraft is facing a tougher battle in the less-controlled American market. The movie opens this Friday, and it’s only expected to bring in around $25 million, behind the lower-budgeted The Conjuring 2. Honestly, given the buzz on this side of the Pacific (or lack thereof) $25 million for Warcraft may be optimistic.
But hey, not every movie, even $100-million-plus blockbusters, need to be for Westerners. Hollywood is going to continue turning its attention to new audiences and interests, and if that means North Americans are occasionally confronted by a movie they don’t really understand at multiplexes, well, that’s fine. Also, again, the path to box office success is a little different in China, so don’t get too judgy about their movie tastes. In short, keep calm and just go watch The Conjuring 2, if you would prefer.