This weekend, Duncan Jones' Warcraft premieres in U.S. theaters, hoping to usher in a wave of successful video game film adaptations. Jones has gone on record saying he wanted to rival Peter Jackson's classic Lord of the Rings trilogy in terms of his approach, but Warcraft is facing quite an uphill climb before it can get to that level. It has received mostly negative reviews, as many feel it's a movie designed more for fans of the game as opposed to all audiences. In addition, it's projected that Warcraft will pull in just $25 million domestically in its first three days, behind fellow new arrivals The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2.
The saving grace may be the international box office. Two weeks ago, when Warcraft opened in 20 markets across the globe, it grossed an impressive $30 million, indicating that the movie may not be a total wash for Universal. Now, the studio is getting even more good news, as Warcraft is performing very well in China - one of the premiere territories for the film industry.
According to Variety, Warcraft made $46 million in its first day in the country. That sets a new record for the best non-weekend debut of all-time, besting the $28.3 million of Avengers: Age of Ultron last year. It's worth pointing out that those figures are only through 10 p.m. screenings on Wednesday, so they conceivably will go up when more showings are accounted for. Warcraft is currently on pace to make $150 million over its first five days in China.
This is obviously a great development and will add a considerable amount of money to Warcraft's financial totals. As of this writing, the film has made $121 million worldwide, $39 million away from covering the production budget (which does not include substantial marketing costs). Warcraft obviously has a long way to go to turn a profit, but if it plays well overseas throughout the next several weeks, it may ultimately not be a disaster. All things considered, this has to be a win for the studio - given that the outlook was quite bleak leading up to Warcraft's rollout.
The big question here is whether or not the global box office numbers will be large enough to warrant a sequel or two. Even if Warcraft underperforms in the States, it may prove to be popular enough in foreign markets that Universal feels it's worth continuing. A relevant comparison would be Pacific Rim, which posted $101.8 million domestically, but is getting a followup (starring John Boyega) thanks to the $411 million worldwide haul. Launching a franchise is one of the goals of Warcraft, so ideally it will finish its run in the black and make a decent amount of money.
At the same time, Warcraft is going to be facing some stiff competition later this month in the form of Finding Dory and Independence Day: Resurgence, both of which are sequels to movies with large followings. Warcraft can storm out of the gate and then be overshadowed shortly after its release, which would negatively impact its box office prospects. The mixed word-of-mouth could be too great a hurdle to overcome, especially if later tentpoles this summer are better received. Things are looking up for Jones and company, but they aren't in the clear just yet.
Warcraft hits U.S. theaters June 10, 2016.