“Warcraft’s” paltry domestic box office return of $24 million over its opening weekend would lead you to believe that the Duncan Jones helmed blockbuster was the latest in a long line of video-game adaptations to have faltered, but that only tells 1/16th of the story. Because while “Warcraft” has floundered in the US, it has grossed $280.5 million internationally, and in China alone it has brought in $156.8 million in just five days. “Warcraft” is now even expected to seriously challenge the $390 million amassed by “Furious 7” in the territory, which made it the highest grossing Hollywood movie ever in China.
China has firmly become a key market for Hollywood studios. Currently it’s the second largest box office in the world, but it’s expected that the country’s revenue will surpass that of the United States at some point in 2017 to make it numero uno. Still, that doesn’t mean that their audiences actually have good taste. Because several Hollywood blockbusters that were critically savaged and rejected by US audiences have prospered amongst the nation’s 1.3 million inhabitants, and we’ve gathered up the heavy hitters.
U.S. Box Office Total: $24.3 million
China Box Office Total: $156 million
Rotten Tomato Score: 29%
“Warcraft’s” success in China shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. While American audiences were nonplussed by its release, the fact that half of “Warcraft’s” five million players were based in China meant that it was always going to garner interest. Especially since the majority of these players are aged between 18-35, a demographic that usually has plenty of money to spend especially on such cinematic frivolities. Its release was also timed to coincide with the Dragon Boat Festival, which is a public holiday held in China.
“Transformers: Age Of Extinction”
U.S. Box Office Total: $245 million
China Box Office Total: $320 million
Rotten Tomato Score: 18%
The “Transformers” franchise has always appealed to Chinese audiences. Over the course of four films, its China box office has made up $588.1 million of its $3.7 billion total. With “Age Of Extinction,” Paramount firmly aimed the film towards China. Not only did they set the final third of it in the country and Hong Kong (shooting some sequences there but Chicago and Detroit were mostly used as stand-ins, respectively), but Olympic wrestler Zou Shiming, singer and actor Han Geng and Li Bingbing were added to the cast, too. Plus, there was Chinese product placement, most laughably when Mark Wahlbeg tried to use a China Construction Bank ATM in Texas, while the Communist regime’s officials are shown to be much more competent than their American counterparts, too.
U.S. Box Office Total: $89 million
China Box Office Total: $113 million
Rotten Tomato Score: 26%
Most moviegoers were disappointed with the fourth installment to the “Terminator” franchise, which was released last summer to paltry domestic numbers. However, its international figures, especially in China, still means there is life in the franchise, yet. The appeal of both the “Terminator” brand, as well as the popularity of a returning Arnold Schwarzenegger, were seen as the biggest reasons for “Genisys'” triumph. “Genisys'” receipts were also boosted because it was the first film to be released following China’s two-month “blackout period,” which sees foreign films banned to assist local releases.
“Need For Speed”
U.S. Box Office Total: $43 million
China Box Office Total: $66 million
Rotten Tomato Score: 23%
A high percentage of you have probably erased “Need For Speed” from your memories. The forgettable action film took in just $43 million back in 2014., but Chinese audiences’ enthusiasm for driving, which is seen as symbol of its burgeoning middle class and catapulted “Furious 7” to its $390 million gross in the region, also allowed “Need For Speed” to strike a chord with Chinese moviegoers. In fact, with a budget of $66 million, its haul in this region led “Need For Speed” to become a nice little earner, as it ultimately finished with a gross of $203.3 million.
U.S. Box Office Total: $28 million
China Box Office Total: $39 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 9%
Released a week after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to torrid reviews, domestically, “Point Break” never looked like it would match its 1991 predecessor’s profits, but China responded to its high-octane action and the real-life stunts. This was a big part of its promotion in the country, and thanks to help from DMG, a Chinese group that co-invested in “Point Break’s” production with Alcon Entertainment, it tapped in to younger viewers. It also profited from being released three weeks earlier in China, too, which allowed good word of mouth to generate before US critics panned it.
“The Expendables 3”
U.S. Box Office Total: $39 million
China Box Office Total: $72 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33%
“The Expendables 3’s” US box office return was slightly hurt when three weeks before its release, it was leaked online, leading to it being illegally downloaded over 2 million times in a week. Plus, it also didn’t help that it was cut for a PG-13 audience. None of that mattered to Chinese audiences, as they still flocked to see the action ensemble assemble. It was buoyed by a heavy marketing campaign, which saw Jason Statham head out to the country to promote it and thus helping to raise its profile. While that might seem relatively simple, it worked again more recently when Daniel Craig visited China ahead of “Spectre’s” release, leading the Bond flick to take in $83 million in the territory.
U.S. Box Office Total: $115 million
China Box Office Total: $103 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%
A moderate success in the US, where its $110 million budget was clawed back, “San Andreas” truly flourished internationally, where it made three times its US total. “San Andreas” got off to a rollicking start in China, taking in $55 million in its first six days of release. Box office experts put this success down to how common earthquakes occur in the territory, while it helped that it starred “Furious 7’s” Dwayne Johnson, who also made a visit Beijing to try and convince more viewers to go.
U.S. Box Office Total: $58 million
China Box Office Total: $50 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%
Chinese audiences have often shown a predilection for seeing films in enhanced new formats, which is exactly what led the underwhelming remake of “RoboCop” to its strong numbers back in 2014. Despite being released in the usually weak period of February in China, which is just after their New Year, “RoboCop” thrived because it was converted into 3D specifically for the territory. In fact, no other country released “RoboCop” in 3D, which made it an alluring commodity for Chinese audiences.