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Wanda makes a legend in crafty war to fill theatres

Reporter: Chen Tong 丨 CCTV.com

06-17-2016 17:16 BJT

This year's Shanghai Film Festival focused on a brand new topic - how computer games and movies can work together. The idea is perfect for the interaction of the game world of Warcraft and the hot epic fantasy film "Warcraft: The Beginning".

The fact is they can work together very well - but is there a trap there for the industry?

A week ago, this theatre was full of warcraft players, and warcraft movie goers. The combination helped the movie to make a one-billion yuan box office in record time. But what happened once all the players had seen the movie? Did anyone else want to see the movie? It doesn't look like it.

The Warcraft game was produced by Blizzard Entertainment in 1994 and came to China ten years later. The epic fantasy setting has attracted some 6 million active players in China. When the movie hit town a week ago, it broke records almost immediately with a new first day box office of more than 300 million yuan.

"The first batch of audiences to see movies like Warcraft will be its players. It was probably the enthusiastic players who helped the movie to get a one billion box office. But then we have to look at its production quality," said Huang Bin, film director.

"If it's really great, the box office earnings could rise to some two or three billion. But if it's only helping someone recall his childhood memory, then it's over."

But the movie Warcraft was intended to be a life-saver for its producer Legendary Pictures, a Hollywood film production company acquired by China's entertainment giant Wanda Group earlier this year. Legendary lost 2.2 billion yuan in 2014 and 3.6 billion in 2015, but Wanda says the company is expected to make a profit in 2016.

Huang also said, "The production cost was definitely expensive. You can tell just by looking at the pictures. It's really just a movie with massive visual effects."

Warcraft cost about 900 million yuan to make, excluding publicity expenses, which means the huge box office take is probably just about covering production costs. Wanda is now planning to make Legendary a part of its asset package before listing.

"To Wanda, relying on only box office takings or a single movie production to support its hundred billion market value is unrealistic. In the film industry chain, from distribution to production and then to theatres, theatres are where the company can earn most," said Cai Junyi, chief analyst of Shanghai Securities.

Overall, however, Cai is quite optimistic about Legendary's becoming part of Wanda's asset package for listing.

Since 2014, Wanda has increased its number of screens in China in a pace of 400 every year. The company is expected to own 2,300 screens in 260 Wanda theatres in 2016. It will take a lot of movies to keep those full.

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