The Great Wall was both a grand visual spectacle with little substance and a flop at the U.S. box office. The former is fine, but the latter Hollywood is far less forgiving of, and that might mean any future US/China co-productions are in trouble.
The main issue is that The Great Wall did well in China, but nowhere else. Of its $266 million total gross outside the US, $170 million comes from China, and as The Hollywood Reporter notes, investors were hoping to see more out of it. The larger problem, though, was The Great Wall was supposed to be a grand merging of U.S. and Chinese box offices, something Hollywood is increasingly eager to see.
Just why a Zhang Yimou spectacle was supposed to do this is an open question. Yimou, a beloved director among film nerds, has been cranking out action-heavy pageantry for years, but hasn’t had a notable hit in the U.S. since 2004’s Hero, which The Great Wall is unlikely to outgross. Similarly, the movie that broke box-office records in China last year, Stephen Chow’s darkly comedic eco-fable The Mermaid, gathered half a billion dollars but was virtually unseen outside of Asia. Based on that, reconciling the cinematic tastes of two cultures may be a much larger project than Hollywood thinks.
(via The Hollywood Reporter)