Guy Ritchie's fantasy revenge flick featuring Charlie Hunnam as #KingArthur opens this week, but following a wall of critical opposition, it's only expected to pull in a measly $25 million from its opening weekend.
Critics have also been hacking away at Guy Ritchie's medieval spectacle, leaving The Legend of the Sword with a rotten 25% rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes - but don't dismiss the Guy Ritchie action adventure just yet, because King Arthur: Legend of the Sword might not need domestic box office success to prove itself worthy of Excalibur.
The second weekend of the summer is a notoriously bad slot for any would-be blockbuster, especially when it has to follow a smash-hit $145 million domestic opening from Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was produced and filmed with a production budget of $175 million (excluding marketing costs), so a meagre domestic opening might be a sore wound for Guy Ritchie and Warner Bros. However, the fact of the matter is that domestic box office success for is no longer the flagpole of Hollywood success, and King Arthur still has plenty of opportunities to reign supreme.
Realm Of The King: Guy Ritchie's Track Record
English director Guy Ritchie began his career with something of a cult status and an inimitable visual style, delivering a series of cuttingly funny, violent thrillers like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He carried that through into the mainstream box office successes of Sherlock Holmes and its sequel Game of Shadows, each grossing over $500 million worldwide while showcasing his typical aesthetic and plotting quirks.
Early omens suggest that lightning won't strike twice for the director as he re-imagines another classic English character for a modern worldwide audience, but this isn't the final word on the film's economic performance. King Arthur was filmed entirely in the UK, from the world famous Leavesden Studios to the hills of Snowdonia in Wales. As such, it could be granted a significant boom from the British Film Industry (BFI) in the form of tax reliefs worth up to 25% of the movie's budget. Should the film meet the stringent requirements of the BFI, King Arthur could already recoup as much as $43 million, purely due to its choice of location.
Still, if King Arthur is to succeed then it's going to have to rely on the rapidly emerging Chinese market.
Reigning In The Far East: Can 'King Arthur' Conquer The Chinese Box Office?
Many would-be box office champions have struggled domestically in recent years, only for the Chinese market to resurrect their standing. Duncan Jones's widely panned Warcraft: The Beginning faced a similar critical backlash, and a mire of poor box office returns in the same predicted range as King Arthur. It scored just $24.2 million in its opening week and seemed certain to go down as one of the worst flops of all time. However, Warcraft earned a staggering 89% of its revenue from overseas, and almost 50% of its total earnings from China alone. The film eventually managed to break even, earning around $430 million worldwide against a $400 million budget.
Warcraft is a great example of the Chinese market's influence, but it's not the only spectacular CGI-fest to perform better overseas than in the U.S. Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim is something of a cult success in the West, but was a mainstream hit with Chinese audiences. It made $111.9 million in China (compared to just $37.2 million domestically), which ultimately decided the future of the franchise and justified the film's upcoming sequel.
It remains to be seen how Chinese audiences will take to the British folktale, but it's worth noting that the South China Morning Post has already been far kinder to the movie than much of the western world. It generously gave the movie 3/5 stars, where the critical consensus from Rotten Tomatoes reads as follows:
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword piles mounds of modern action flash on an age-old tale -- and wipes out much of what made it a classic story in the first place.
Speculation about box office success remains a hit and miss industry, so labeling a movie as a commercial flop prior to its release is something of a gamble. If King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is able to connect with a particular market, the film can, at the very least, recuperate its budget.
Will you be checking out King Arthur: Legend of the Sword this weekend? Let us know below.