Walking out of the screening for Warcraft on Monday evening, three thoughts immediately popped into my head: 1) What is so sticky underneath my left shoe, 2) I really enjoyed that more than I though I would, and 3) I really hope it makes enough money to justify a sequel because this is clearly only the start of the story and I wouldn’t mind revisiting this crazy fantasy world again.
Unfortunately for my last bit of rumination, US box office prognostications for the film’s release today is not looking great. A combination of mixed-review early buzz and numerous other competitors either also opening or having just recently opened means that the optimistic of estimates place it around the $25 million mark. And when your movie costs $160 million before advertising costs, that’s pretty much chump change. Luckily – contrary to the belief of some – the US is not the whole world.
Warcraft already debuted on 29 May in several European and South American markets where it’s actually done good business, notching up $20 million in its first weekend in Europe and adding another $39 million its second. It had the biggest opening day of 2016 thus far in Germany, the second biggest in Russia and the third in Sweden. It’s also the biggest opening day of all time for a Universal release in Turkey, and is currently no. 1 in the UK after a 7 day run. And pretty much most of the other markets it opened, it was in the top of the charts as well.
But of all the international markets though, the one that Universal and production production studio Legendary have most keenly been eyeballing is China. Over the last few years, the Middle Kingdom has rapidly become the second biggest box office region in the world, with the power to turn domestic flops into massive global successes (they are almost single handedly responsible for us getting a Pacific Rim 2.)
On top of that kingmaking potential, China has also had a particular obsessive, long-running love affair with the Warcraft video game franchise on which the movie is built. And the movie is set to bow on a 5-day holiday period that means more bums in seats. Factoring in all of this, pundits actually estimated the movie would open to a massive $125 million debut. It appears they underestimated China’s love of orcs.
Warcraft hit screens on Wednesday and immediately started breaking records. With Universal giving it the biggest Western film release in Chinese history by debuting it in 67.5% of the 39,000 theatres in the country, the film racked up $46 million. Proving it’s fanbase, $20 million of that figure was pre-ticket sales, beating the record set by Avengers: Age of Ultron. This was the second biggest opening day for a non-local release behind Universal’s Furious 7 ($63 million), but the biggest ever for a non-weekend release (previously held by Avengers: Age of Ultron at $28.3 million)
And it hasn’t slowed down making money, as after two days the film had already pulled in approximately $91 million.With the Chinese Dragon Boat Holiday essentially giving it a 5-day opening weekend in the country, it’s now estimated that the movie could actually open north of the $150 million mark in China. Its global tally is already sitting on approximately $169 million by the time of writing this article, and it still needs to open in 20 countries, which means that $160 million price tag is suddenly not looking like a problem at all.
And for all we know, the US market may just surprise us and it exceeds expectations there as well. It needs to get by fellow newcomers The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2 though, which are more than likely going to do decent business. Then there’s the flagging triumvirate of Alice Through the Looking Glass, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Genre and target market wise, they probably represent Warcraft‘s most direct competitors and although all three are running out of steam quickly and are already either certifiable flops or under performing terribly, they will probably still be drawing away a small part of the audience. Then there’s Pixar’s Finding Dory and the Dwayne Johnson & Kevin Hart action-comedy Central Intelligence releasing in the US next week with Independence Day: Resurgence hitting the week after that. They are all definitely going to be stealing a whole lot of thunder.
But none of that may actually matter if China and the rest of the world keep turning up like they do. It may just tank horribly in the US, but it looks to have a very good chance for another cinematic trip to the world of Azeroth. And I couldn’t be happier. Is Warcraft a masterpiece? No, not by a long shot! But there was still something about it that I loved, and I would love to see this story finished properly. So “work, work” all you filmgoers and make this happen!
Last Updated: June 10, 2016