Jackie Chan: 'Warcraft' Success in China "Scares the Americans"

Jackie Chan at SIFF - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of SIFF

"If we make a film that earns [$1.5 billion], then people from all over the world who study film will learn Chinese instead of us learning English," the action star said during the Shanghai Film Festival.

Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan on Sunday extolled the Chinese film industry’s emerging market prowess at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

Saying that China was overlooked as a “nothing market” for decades, Chan suggested that the world has come to see the country’s entertainment sector in a very different light of late. He cited the phenomenal Chinese box-office performance of Legendary Entertainment’s Warcraft as evidence of the new order.

"Warcraft made 600 million RMB [$91 million] in two days — this has scared the Americans,” Chan said. “If we can make a film that earns 10 billion [$1.5 billion], then people from all over the world who study film will learn Chinese, instead of us learning English,” he added. (As of Saturday, Warcraft had grossed $144.7 million in China over four days, while it opened to just $10.7 million on Friday in North America, where it has been hit with mostly negative reviews.)

While Legendary, the studio behind director Duncan Jones' Warcraft, remains mostly U.S.-led and operated, the company was bought by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group for $3.5 billion in January.

Chan was speaking at a kickoff event for his namesake Jackie Chan Action Movie Week program at the Shanghai International Film Festival, which screens a selection of new and recent pics from the genre that made Chan famous. The event was held at a downtown Shanghai cinema and attracted a full house.

China’s annual box office total hit $6.78 billion in 2015, and the country is expected to top North America ($11 billion last year) as the world’s largest theatrical market in 2017.

It was unclear whether Chan was suggesting that he hopes a Chinese movie will make $1.5 billion from the Chinese market alone or worldwide. The biggest Chinese — or Hong Kong-Chinese — film to date is Stephen Chow’s comedy-fantasy The Mermaid, which grossed $528.6 million earlier this year. The highest-grossing movie ever worldwide is still Avatar with $2.7 billion, while Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the biggest ever in a single territory, having taken $936.6 million from North America alone.

If the Chinese box office continues growing at an average rate of 30 percent per year — which it has for the past five years — it’s conceivable that the country could produce a $1.5 billion domestic-grosser sometime over the next five to 10 years, barring a major market-stalling event.

“It is you, not us, who makes China powerful,” Chan said to the mostly Chinese crowd in attendance. “So, thank you all — we hope the Chinese film industry gets even more powerful.”