The eyes of Hollywood will be on video games this weekend as Warcraft makes its long-awaited premiere at the box office. Video game movies have been, at best, a mixed bag at theaters, with most adaptations falling short in the kind of wide, cross-demographic appeal that translates into big returns on studio investments. While early reviews of Warcraft have been less than stellar, negative criticism is far from the death knell of any movie. For studios, it’s all about money.
Director Duncan Jones (Moon) has a lot riding on Warcraft. The film is his biggest to date, and the financial success of Warcraft could make or break the future of his career. Though the movie has an impressive roster of star-power that could boost its broader appeal — including Dominic Cooper (Preacher), Ruth Negga (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Paula Patton (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), and Travis Fimmel (Vikings) — a high fantasy concept based on a popular but oft-ridiculed gaming franchise might be a hard sell for many of the moviegoing public. Still, despite the negative reviews and admittedly niche concept of the film itself, there are some indications that Warcraft is set to be a financial success.
Warcraft opened in China earlier this week and, according to a report by Variety, the movie has already broken box office records there, earning $90 million in its first two days. Additionally, the film has also broken the highest box office record for a Thursday in China, earning $46 million, with ticket sales accounting for a staggering 81 percent of the total box office take that day in the country.
This bodes well for the film’s bottom line, with Warcraft already earning $30 million in European markets and an anticipated $25 million expected for the U.S. opening. At the very least, if the current overseas take and expected U.S. take are factored into account, Universal has already taken in a sizable chunk of the film’s $160 million budget.
Still, Warcraft is currently sitting with an abysmal 22 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with many critics already calling it a contender for worst movie of the year. That’s far from meeting the expectations of Jones, who previously opined that he wanted Warcraft to rival Lord of the Rings in both scope and acclaim. In that regard, he seems to have missed his mark, at least critically.
In the end, however, critics rarely get the last word. This year alone, we’ve seen that critical disdain of a movie often has little impact on audience appreciation or box office figures. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was hit with horrendous critical response upon its release in March, only to go on to earn $872 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.
It seems unlikely that Warcraft, with its relatively narrow demographic and small crossover appeal, can ever reach the financial heights of Batman V Superman, but it serves as an indication that poor critical reception alone won’t necessarily break a film’s financial success. Despite its negative reviews, Warcraft stands a solid chance at becoming a financial success.
That will, of course, depend on audience reactions and fan word of mouth. The appeal of Warcraft’s video game progenitor, World of Warcraft, might make for a few repeat viewers who extend the movie’s financial success beyond the first weekend, after all the casual movie goers have moved on. We may not see the movie break any more records, in either the foreign or domestic markets, but Warcraft seems destined to find its way into the black, securing its place as a financial success.
Warcraft premieres in U.S. theaters on June 10th, 2016.