‘Assassin’s Creed’ image courtesy of Fox
In either a cosmic coincidence or very bad planning, two big video game-based action movies opened in China yesterday. Sony’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter snagged a ridiculously good $32.6 million, including $2m in midnight grosses, setting the stage for a possible $75m debut weekend and $150m+ total in what is the world’s second-largest moviegoing marketplace. Playing second fiddle was 20th Century Fox’s Assassin’s Creed, which earned $6.3m on its first day.
The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard action-er, involving a death row inmate who transfers himself into the body of an ancient murder-y ancestor in order to snag a very special apple, was supposed to the Batman Begins of video game movies, a polished, prestigious, and character-driven production that brought honor to a much-maligned sub-genre. But, production values and decent acting from a game cast notwithstanding, the film was a narrative botch and the reviews were no better than the conventional video game adaptation.
The Regency production, which cost $125 million, opened over the Christmas holiday in North America with $22m over the Wed-Mon holiday and eventually made it to $54.6m domestic. Oddly enough, that made it the eighth-biggest video game adaptation ever in North America (not accounting for inflation) and Fox’s biggest of six such attempts in the sandbox. Overseas told a slightly different story, as it did well in a number of territories ($10m in Brazil, $16m in Russia, $10m in the United Kingdom, etc.) and it entered China with $212m worldwide, making it the seventh-biggest video game adaptation of all time worldwide.
So, at a glance, the $6.3 million opening day should lead to around $18m for the weekend which in turn will lead to around $35-$40m for China overall. That alone would lift Assassin’s Creed’s worldwide total to $250m, not counting whatever it has left in current territories and whatever it makes in Japan next week and Tunisia. And if Assassin’s Creed were a cheaper film, that would be a huge win for the action fantasy. But since we’re talking about a pesky $125m production budget for the Justin Kurzel-directed picture, it’s still not a hit.
This goes back to a relatively common refrain, which is that China can make your otherwise underwhelming would-be blockbuster into a hit if the budget is low enough. If you’re The Mechanic Resurrection, your $49 million China gross is more-than-fine. But if you’re Assassin’s Creed, you need more than a $40m gross in said territory, or better results in North America and elsewhere, to make the grade.
Assassin’s Creed may well double its budget by the time it leaves theaters, and it may break even/make money in the long run. But it is not a new franchise and it merely continues the curse of the video game movie.
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