How Warcraft stormed the box office in China

image copyrightLegendary Entertainment
image captionThe game is known in China as the "World of Magic Beasts"

First it was on your computer, then a cinema near you and now World Of Warcraft (WoW) is taking over China.

Warcraft: The Beginning, the film of the hit computer game, opened in China last week, taking $156m (£109m) in five days and topping box offices.

Comparatively, Star Wars: The Force Awakens took $125.4m during its entire box office run in China.

Warcraft is now on its way to overtake Furious 7 as the highest-grossing Hollywood film in China.

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe long-awaited fantasy film, starring Toby Kebbell, grossed $24.4m in the US

In the US, the film is considered to have bombed, having opened to the tune of $24.4m (£17.2m). Warcraft also received critical reviews, getting only 27% on ratings website Rotten Tomatoes.

So why has Warcraft performed so well in China?

The audience

Globally, the majority of WoW players are men aged 18-35, a demographic which often has expendable income.

And China has long been one of the biggest markets, making up about half of the game's five million players.

The game was first introduced in China in 2005, at a time when online access and internet cafes were growing rapidly.

The release date

The film adaptation, with a budget of $160m, was released on 67% of China's 39,000 screens in the middle of last week.

image copyrightLegendary Entertainment
image captionThe game sees players exploring a vast landscape, complete quests and interact with other gamers

The opening coincided with the Dragon Boat Festival, a public holiday across China, so the potential audience was vast.

It did face competition - X-Men: Apocalypse, the Angry Birds Movie and Tim Burton's Alice Through the Looking Glass were the other main Hollywood flicks showing in China. But none could touch the appeal of Warcraft.

The publicity drive

The studio behind the movie, Legendary Entertainment, was earlier this year acquired by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda for $3.5bn.

image copyrightAP
image captionActor Daniel Wu greeted Chinese fans at a red carpet event for Warcraft ahead of the movie's premiere

Legendary's in-house marketing teams reportedly cut several dozen pieces of China-specific footage, and released more trailers for the movie in China than in the US.

It also brought on companies such as computer maker Lenovo, chip maker Intel, car maker Jeep and brewery Tsingtao to sponsor the show.

"Many of the decision-makers at these brands were 'Warcraft' players," Peter Loehr, chief executive of Legendary East, Legendary's China arm, told the LA times.

But has the movie peaked?

On Sunday, ticket sales for Warcraft in China plunged to £11.2m, a big drop from previous days.

Yet it still accounted for 74.5% of Sunday's box office screenings, according to Deadline.

It all points to the growing importance of the Chinese cinema-going public. China's box office is expected be the world's largest by next year, according to one report this weekend , surpassing the US.

Hollywood actor Jackie Chan recently told the Shanghai Film Festival that the success of Warcraft had "scared" Americans.

"If we can make a film that earns 10bn [yuan] then people from all over the world who study film will learn Chinese, instead of us learning English."

Related Topics

More on this story