While Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is rocketing into the record books in North America, Legendary Entertainment's period monster epic The Great Wall is standing tallest in China, the world's No. 2 box-office market.
The high-profile co-production, which stars Matt Damon as a mercenary fighting for the Middle Kingdom, debuted to a muscular $67.4 million from Friday to Sunday in the country, according to early estimates from local box-office tracker Ent Group (the total can be expected to nudge up slightly come morning, Beijing time).
Directed by Oscar-nominated Chinese helmer Zhang Yimou, the movie is the biggest China-Hollywood co-production ever, with an estimated budget of $150 million. The high-concept, high-stakes project was financed by Legendary, Universal, China Film Group and Le Vision Pictures.
The Great Wall's debut is the fourth-biggest opening weekend in China this year, behind local all-time box-office champ The Mermaid, Marvel's Captain America: Civil War ($96 million) and Legendary's own Warcraft. (Rogue One doesn't open in China until Jan. 6.) The three-day estimate includes $7 million from 364 Imax screens, making The Great Wall the second-highest December Imax opening ever.
Direct comparisons with Warcraft, directed by Duncan Jones, are somewhat difficult, however, due to the unique window in which that film opened. Warcraft bowed to $46 million on a Wednesday, and then earned $65 million in its first Friday-to-Sunday window later that week. If you consider the full Wednesday-to-Sunday stretch Warcraft's opening weekend — as Legendary did when it announced the total at the time — the movie opened to $156 million. However you parse it, Warcraft came out of the gate somewhat bigger than The Great Wall.
The Great Wall's central concept is that the ancient cultural artifact of its title was built to defend against monsters rather than warring nomads. Damon plays a British mercenary who joins the Chinese to battle an army of Taotie — monsters from ancient Chinese mythology — who wage an attack every 60 years. The film's large cast includes Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal and an array of top Chinese talent, including Hong Kong's Andy Lau and local heartthrobs Lu Han and Lin Gengxin.
The film opens in many international territories over staggered dates in the coming weeks, leading up to a North America release on Feb. 17.