Even before Legendary was acquired by China’s Dalian Wanda Group, it had Middle Kingdom involvement in Warcraft. The ambitious adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment’s video game juggernaut has Chinese money in it via Tencent Pictures which said it had made an equity investment back in September. At the same time, Wanda said it would work with the two companies and use its network to promote and market the film. Now, Legendary has smartly positioned Warcraft for a rare early Middle Kingdom release — two days ahead of the U.S. Universal, which is releasing in most of the world outside China and Japan, will boot it up on June 10 domestically while it will go out on June 8 in the PROC. Several key European territories go in late May.
Though it’s an infrequent move, this is not the first time a major Hollywood film will open in the Middle Kingdom ahead of North America. Last December, Alcon, DMG and Warner Bros’ Point Break surfed into China three weeks early. Before that Penguins Of Madagascar bowed 12 days before the U.S. in 2014 and Iron Man 3 opened in China two days before it debuted Stateside in 2013. China Film Group and Huayi are handling the Chinese release on Warcraft.
The June 8 date for Warcraft gets it out just ahead of the Dragon Boat Festival holiday (June 9-11) which was quite lucrative at the box office last year. It also comes at the end of high-school exams period. Warcraft will come into the Chinese market on a Wednesday, five days after Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse bows; which will set up an interesting face-off. In 2014, X-Men: Days Of Future Past mutated into a very good $116.5M hit.
Directed by Duncan Jones, the film stars Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster and Dominic Cooper — and also features Chinese heartthrob Daniel Wu who was in last year’s hit Go Away Mr Tumor. He’ll act as a particular draw at Middle Kingdom turnstiles — local media reports a new poster for the film has him front and center.
World Of Warcraft has long been popular among the huge Chinese gaming community and the film adaptation had a major marketing push on December 31 at Joycity in Chengdu. There, fans got “the biggest free movie-themed exhibition ever mounted in China.” The Legendary Warcraft Experience featured lifelike character statues, and over 150 props, weapons and costumes from the film. Fans were also able to take part in a virtual reality ride on the back of the mythical Gryphon as it flew over Azeroth.