There have actually been three previous “Dungeons & Dragons” movies, but only one that released in theaters: 2000’s “Dungeons & Dragons,” directed by Courtney Solomon, was panned by critics upon release but later came to be regarded with semi-ironic fond nostalgia — in large part thanks to Jeremy Irons’ truly entertaining villain. In terms of box office, “Dungeons & Dragons” set a very low bar to clear: it debuted at No. 5 with a dismal $7.2 million opening weekend (adjusted for inflation, that’s about $12.6 million) and was a notorious financial bomb, grossing just $33 million worldwide by the end of its theatrical run. “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” will make more than that in its opening weekend alone.
Don’t start clinking your tankards of mead just yet, though. “Honor Among Thieves” still has some way to go, given that it cost roughly twice as much to make as the 2000 movie (whose production budget was $45 million, or around $78 million adjusted for inflation). Factoring in the cost of marketing, its global break-even point will probably be in the $350-450 million range.
One useful comparison point is Duncan Jones’ 2016 movie “Warcraft,” another big screen adaptation of a popular fantasy game. Made for a similar budget to “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” “Warcraft” grossed just $24.1 million in its domestic opening weekend and would have been a total box office disaster without its surprisingly huge success overseas. Ultimately, only 10.8% of its final box office total of $439 million came from U.S. theaters, with more than half ($225 million) made from ticket sales in China.
“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is getting a day-and-date release in China this weekend. It’s off to a difficult start, but should be helped by the positive reviews and strong word of mouth. If it can manage both strong overseas numbers and small week-to-week drops domestically, “Honor Among Thieves” could see a happy ending to its campaign.