The Warcraft film seemed to have everything going for it: a dedicated, talented director in Duncan Jones, quality control from Blizzard entertainment and a budget big enough ($160 million) for a lot of maneuvering. Sadly, the release was one of the biggest domestic flops, raking in a meager $47 million at the US box office and receiving an ice-cold response from critics.
Check out the trailer below:
It is safe to say that the film was a disaster, but the producers had their spirits lifted when the numbers from the Chinese box office came in. Warcraft ended up making a stunning $433.5 million outside the US and almost half of that was from the Chinese box office alone. Since, Legendary studios has been looking into making a sequel with the express interest of reeling in the Chinese box office.
We take a look at the implications of producing a sequel for a more China-centric audience and what this means for blockbusters in the future.
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Big In China: Is Warcraft 2 Destined To Be Exclusive To Chinese Cinemas?
These big numbers at the Chinese box office have not been overlooked, and while the producers pat themselves on the back, Legendary studios has already revealed the desire to produce a sequel. But rumor has it the sequel might be a China-centric release with a limited US release. Sky Moore, one of the major overseers of US-China co-production deals, told The Wrap the sequel would target the Chinese market first and foremost:
“Who says it needs to have American actors? I would suspect that the sequel would be more China-centric. It’s very possible it wouldn’t be released here [in the United States].”
The Warcraft film already had a huge audience in China, with over half of the world's WoW players residing there. It also had a huge marketing push from the Dalia Wanda group, the Chinese production company that recently took over Legendary pictures. The franchise definitely has the support and the momentum to suggest a move toward focusing their energy on this market that is quickly overtaking Hollywood by using Chinese actors and Mandarin dialogue.
Jones & Cast On Board?
One of the biggest questions surrounding the sequel is whether or not Duncan Jones can be convinced to come back on board. The director dedicated three and a half years of his life to a project that was a critical failure but a financial success. In a recent interview with Collider, he expressed the desire to work on a sequel, despite the grueling production of the first one. But would he be replaced in favor of a Chinese director?
“If there were an opportunity for us to make another film in the Warcraft universe I really feel like we did the hard work in the first movie as far as setting the table. I would love to capitalize on 3 and a half years of hard work and be able to have some fun in that world now that I’ve done the hard work. [So] who knows? Maybe I’m just being a masochist.”
Another point to keep in mind is that the film succeeded in China without any big Hollywood names attached, so by adding some big Chinese names to the sequel, Blizzard would further increase its chances of smashing the box office again. The producers will be faced with the tough challenge of figuring out whether Chinese audiences prefer the brand to remain American with western actors, or whether they'd rather it feature Chinese actors.
What Does This Mean For Future Blockbusters?
Warcraft is not the first blockbuster to deflate in the US and explode in China. Franchises like Transformers, Fast and Furious and Need for Speed have all made a profit purely on huge returns at the Chinese box office. We are witnessing a transition from a world where Hollywood held a tight monopoly on the film industry to one where a film can find success in foreign markets despite American critics and audiences. This weak summer proved that the blockbuster season needs more competition, perhaps the Chinese market could provide that kick in the ass.
Take a look at the biggest Chinese film production company, the Wanda Group:
The connection tying these films together is that they're all supported by a strong brand with a global presence. Warcraft had such a wide reach because the game had already a humongous following, and films looking to recreate Chinese success will have to do the same. By focusing all their energy on China, Legendary would avoid the fickle American market that relies heavily on polarizing critics.
Changing Attitudes Toward China
Warcraft has hit a cultural milestone, and how we perceive success abroad has changed radically. Before the internet, actors would appear in ads in China and Japan to pick up a paycheck, safe in the knowledge that no one would see it. With Chinese productions now featuring American actors — like The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon — we see that attitudes toward working outside Hollywood are changing radically. The emergence of a dominant Chinese film industry is not something to fear or make fun of, but rather to celebrate as the exchange will encourage competition, hopefully bringing world cinema to greater heights.
Do you want to see Warcraft 2 arrive in US cinemas?