On Screen China: ‘Warcraft’ Flouts Reviews, Draws Mostly-Male Crowd

  • Warcraft gets 8.3 out of 10 rating on cultural website Douban
  • Heady start thanks to positive feedback from pre-existing fans
  • Will end below $300M—big given it won’t top $100M in N.A.
Costumed Warcraft fans at theater in China. (Courtesy: Weibo)

Costumed Warcraft fans at a theater in China. (Courtesy: Weibo)

Warcraft — Legendary and Universal Studios’ big screen fantasy adaptation of the popular World of Warcraft (WoW) computer games — may be getting bludgeoned by critics in North America, where it is on its way to a disappointing third place debut this weekend, but on the other side of the world in China, still just the second biggest movie market on Earth, the picture couldn’t be more different.

In its first two days of release in China, Warcraft has run up RMB603 million ($92 million) in ticket sales, becoming the first movie ever in China to gross RMB 300 million two days in a row.

Warcraft accomplished this feat thanks to an advantageous release date on the eve of China’s Dragon Boat Festival, a rare import in the country’s protected market allowed in over the wall during a peak moviegoing moment.  The public holiday runs through Saturday. By the end of Sunday, Warcraft could be looking at a $200 million total.

Produced by Legendary, which was bought by Chinese real estate giant Dalian Wanda for $3.5 billion in January, Warcraft also has powerful financial backers in the China Film Group, Tencent, and Huayi Brothers, which may also help to explain the massive China opening and recent marketing blitz.

Tuesday midnight screenings were packed with diehard WoW fans dressed as their favorite characters from the computer games. Many cinemas added additional screenings well into the night. Warcraft‘s midnight total came in at a massive $7.6 million, second only to Furious 7, which also opened on a Sunday.

Warcraft  opened wide on Wednesday on a record 65.2% of China’s screens and ended the day with more than 120,000 showtimes nationwide.

Initial reaction is very strong — Warcraft garnered an 8.3 out of 10 rating on cultural website Douban — but that positive feedback is to be expected when pre-existing fans that are attending the first few days of release.

Warcraft cast Chinese-American heartthrob Daniel Wu, who makes his home in Hong Kong, to help expand its appearl beyond its core 20-30 year old male gamer demographic. But that tactic doesn’t seem to have paid off. Through the first two days of release, more than two-thirds of Chinese moviegoers for Warcraft were male.

Of the top five highest-grossing films in China — The Mermaid, Monster Hunt, Furious 7, Transformers 4, and Mojin The Lost LegendTransformers is the only film to skew more male and its ratio was nearly even at 51% male, 49% female.

So, while the media is throwing around comparisons to Furious 7  and Reddit has already declared $400 million at a lock, we here at CFI are going to be much more cautious. Warcraft most likely will score between $175 million and $200 million in its opening five days, but demand will drop steeply once its massive male fan base is exhausted and general audiences stay away. Warcraft will end its run below $300 million, an impressive tally from a film that won’t even top $100 million in North America.