Warcraft movie tops China box office

HONG KONG • Warcraft: The Beginning, the movie directed by the late rock icon David Bowie's son Duncan Jones, topped China's box office during its opening week as it headed towards becoming the highest-grossing Hollywood film in the country since Furious 7 (2015).

Backed by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin's Legendary Entertainment and gaming company Tencent Holdings, the film has taken in 1.03 billion yuan (S$212 million) in ticket sales since its debut last Wednesday, according to industry data provider Entgroup.

Warcraft generated this year's biggest opening-day ticket sales in China, surpassing those of Stephen Chow's The Mermaid (2016), the country's highest-grossing movie, including local and Hollywood films.

The movie's success - it has already surpassed what the last Star Wars feature made in China - highlights the rewards Hollywood companies can reap by catering to Chinese tastes.

Warcraft, based on Activision Blizzard's World of Warcraft game, may generate as much as 2 billion yuan in China, according to Nomura Holdings, which would make it China's second-highest-grossing movie this year.

By contrast, Warcraft was not even the top movie over the weekend in its debut in the United States and Canada, where it generated US$24.4 million (S$33.1 million) over the weekend to take the second spot in the box office.

The film, which cost US$160 million to make and was backed by Universal Pictures, will probably earn US$45 million in total in the US and Canada, according to BoxOfficePro.com.

The Conjuring 2, the well- reviewed new horror flick from Warner Bros, led the box office over the weekend in the US and Canada with sales of US$40.4 million, according to researcher ComScore. The producers spent about US$42 million to make the sequel.

The weekend's other big newcomer, crime caper Now You See Me 2, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson as illusionists, came in third with US$23 million.

Meanwhile, China's box office is anticipated to surpass that of America's next year and lay claim to the title of the world's largest, according to a report by international accounting firm PwC on Sunday.

The report forecasts that China's box-office revenue will hit US$10.3 billion next year, while takings in the US are expected to come to US$10.14 billion.

BLOOMBERG, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2016, with the headline 'Warcraft movie tops China box office'. Print Edition | Subscribe