Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall starring Matt Damon, Tian Jing, and Willem Dafoe lost big in the North American box office, making only $34.8 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter. While the film still made $171 million at the China box office, this was still a great disappointment, and is not enough to recover costs of production. The film will most likely lose more than $75 million, with Universal Pictures losing at least $10 million after funding around 25% of the film’s $150 million budget (along with shelling out around $80 million on global marketing). The rest of the losses will be split between Legendary Entertainment, China Film Group, and Le Vision Pictures. The film will most likely top at around $320 million globally, way less than anticipated.
The repercussions of this loss could potentially be great, as this was the biggest US-China production collaboration ever made, and with the great losses seen on this film there is a great chance that investors will avoid such collaborations for at least the immediate future. This failure is quite the let down, as a successful collaboration between the No. 1 and No. 2 film markets in the world would’ve opened up doors for future mega-budget collaborations.
The failure of this film, however, revealed a lot of the obstacles that future collaborations will have to work with. The difficulty of finding a story that equally relates to Western and Eastern audiences, as well as effectively meld Western and Eastern characters into a cohesive story. The other large obstacle is also one of geography, as bringing the two crews together was very difficult and caused many internal struggles, as well as forcing the studios to hire 100 interpreters to work on the set.
However, these are challenges that will be tackled by films like Disney’s Mulan, which is set to be solely funded by US money but will see many of the same challenges since a majority of the casting and filming will be done in China.