Who the hell watched “Warcraft”? China is fueling the market for overdone Hollywood action movies


Hollywood’s failed domestic blockbusters, like Warcraft and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, are among the highest-grossing movies in China—the world’s second-largest box office.

There, China’s 1.3 billion people are more drawn to Hollywood action movies with over-the-top visual effects than the fantasy sagas that lead in North America, John Zeng, president and board director at China’s Wanda Cinemas, said at CinemaCon this week, IndieWire reported.

That explains how Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, which both bombed in the US, managed to beat out Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Beauty and the Beast—which topped the North American box office in 2015, 2016, and so far in 2017, respectively. (These movies were all released later in China than the US, with the exception of Beauty and the Beast.)

China alone made up half of Warcraft’s $433 million global box-office total. Domestically, it only brought in around $47 million, which was about 30% of the estimated $160 million it cost to make the movie, according to Box Office Mojo.

Chinese audiences are also resistant to Hollywood animation, Zeng reportedly said. That’s why big releases like Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets haven’t found as much success there as in the US. But some Hollywood titles with global appeal, like Zootopia, have been able to tap into China’s love for the genre.

And Chinese audiences love 3D movies, said Zeng, whose company also owns America’s largest theater chain, AMC Theatres, where 3D films don’t have the same cachet and are slowly disappearing. (Theaters charge more to watch a 3D film.)

China’s box office once threatened to overtake North America after nearly a decade of stupendous growth. But last year it hit a wall. China’s movie-ticket revenue grew less than 4% to 45.7 billion yuan ($6.6 billion), compared to a 48% lift the previous year, the Hollywood Reporter wrote, citing data from the state-run body that oversees film.

Zeng projected, through a translator at CinemaCon, that the Chinese box office will now grow between 15% and 20%, annually.

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