Warcraft first 2016 Hollywood mega-hit in China

Updated: 2016-06-15 11:31

By Amy He in New York(China Daily USA)

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Warcraft first 2016 Hollywood mega-hit in China

A fan livestreams her participation during China's premiere of the film Warcraft at a theatre in Shanghai on June 7. Reuters

Hollywood's recent slump at the Chinese box office has been reversed by the unexpected performance of Warcraft, which was critically panned in the US but has made more than $150 million in China since its release last week.

The film, a live-action version of the World of Warcraft video games, made more money in its opening weekend than other major Hollywood films out this year made in their entire runs, including the much-hyped Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the third installment of Kung Fu Panda.

Warcraft was produced by Legendary Entertainment, which was acquired by Dalian-based Wanda Group earlier this year for $3.5 billion - one of the reasons, some say, Legendary put so much effort into marketing the film.

"This is the first movie being released in China since Legendary's acquisition by Wanda," said Marc Ganis, co-founder of Jiaflix, which distributes American films in China.

"It is obviously very important for the whole public relations spin and perception for the Legendary acquisition to be viewed as successful. So Wanda is pulling out all the stops to make sure the first movie released in China under the acquisition should not surprise anyone," he said.

The Warcraft games are already popular in China, but the studio promoted the film heavily, partnering with Tencent and Huayi Brothers Media, creating brand sponsorship deals and merchandising around the movie. It worked with brands like Jeep, Lenovo, Intel and an herbal tea maker to market the film, according to the Los Angeles Times.

It helped that decision-makers at those brands were Warcraft players themselves, Peter Loehr, CEO of Legendary East, the company's China arm, told the Times.

Warcraft's success doesn't come as a surprise, given the fandom around the game, said Jonathan Papish, a writer at China Film Insider. "It makes sense given that demographic," he said.

On the film's performance in China, film star Jackie Chan said Warcraft's earnings should worry Hollywood executives.

"Warcraft made 600 million yuan in two days," Chan said this past weekend at a Shanghai film festival. "This has scared Americans. If we can make a film that earns $10 billion, then people from all over the world who study film will learn Chinese, instead of us learning English."

China's videogame-playing population may be giving rise to a trend. During a Monday announcement of his new production company in China, Hollywood director Renny Harlin said he is set to direct anadaptation of Legend of the Ancient Sword, a popular Chinese video game.