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$160 Million-Budgeted ‘Warcraft’ Faces Tough Battle at Box Office

Ten years after first being announced, Universal-Legendary’s high-priced fantasy film “Warcraft” is generating only moderate interest among U.S. moviegoers.

Early tracking before the June 10 opening indicates that domestic performance for “Warcraft” may be held back by underwhelming reviews with projections for a moderate $25 million opening weekend — a downbeat result given its $160 million budget. Should that estimate hold, “Warcraft” will likely be heading for a third or fourth-place finish behind openings of New Line’s “The Conjuring 2” and Lionsgate’s “Now You See Me 2” along with the second weekend of Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.”

The Conjuring 2” is looking to be the big winner of the trio with an opening weekend of $40 million-plus while “Now You See Me 2,” which Lionsgate expects to open strong, should finish in the $25 million to $28 million range.

Prospects on the domestic side may be iffy for “Warcraft,” given a harsh response so far from reviewers with a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety’s Geoff Berkshire called the film “pricey and preposterous.”

Based on Blizzard Entertainment’s multi-player fantasy game, the videogame adaptation began its international launch Wednesday, opening in France, Indonesia and the Philippines. This weekend it bows in Germany, Russia and Scandinavia, followed by most of the rest of Europe next weekend and China on June 8.

With extensive use of CGI to portray mythical creatures and magical realms, the film’s lofty budget will require solid worldwide performance to push “Warcraft” into the black — particularly on the international side, where it’s expected to deliver stronger results than in the U.S. Universal has indicated that North America is viewed as being a spoke in a larger wheel rather than the driving force for the film.

“Warcraft,” directed by Duncan Jones, is the first major release from Legendary Entertainment since it was acquired by China powerhouse Dalian Wanda in January for $3.5 billion.

Legendary produced such blockbusters as “Jurassic World,” “Pacific Rim” and “Godzilla.” It also partnered with distributor Universal Pictures on last year’s hit “Straight Outta Compton” before misfiring on “Steve Jobs” and “Crimson Peak.”

Universal and Legendary will next partner on fantasy-actioner “The Great Wall,” starring Matt Damon and Andy Lau with China opening in December and the U.S. on Feb. 17.

“Warcraft”: A Long Road to Theaters

Development on the feature adaptation of “Warcraft” began 10 years ago in 2006. Filming didn’t start until January, 2014, and lasted for four months, primarily in Vancouver.

Starring Travis Fimmel, Dominic Cooper, Robert Kazinsky, Toby Kebbell, Ben Foster, and Ruth Negga, the movie is set in the peaceful realm of Azeroth, which stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of Orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. It was produced by Charles Roven through his Atlas Entertainment banner.

“Warcraft” had originally been set to open on Dec. 18, 2015, but once Disney announced in late 2013 that it had skedded “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on the same date, Universal and Legendary reacted by pushing the release back three months to March. And about a year ago, “Warcraft” moved back another three months along with delays for “The Mummy” reboot and “Pacific Rim 2.”

Not All June Gloom

Prospects are brighter for “The Conjuring 2,” three years after the supernatural thriller grossed over $318 million worldwide on a $20 million budget. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga played paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who investigate a 1971 haunting in Rhode Island. Wilson and Farmiga return for the sequel, with the story this time set in England.

“The Conjuring” opened with $41.9 million on its way to a $137.4 million domestic total.

Heist adventure “Now You See Me” generated similar results in 2013 with a worldwide gross of $350 million on a $75 million budget that was mostly funded through Lionsgate presales. Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reprise their roles  with appearances from Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Jay Chou and Sanaa Lathan.

“Now You See Me” opened domestically with $29.4 million on its way to $117.7 million domestically.

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