Matt Damon’s ‘The Great Wall’ is a box office bomb in North America

Premiere of HBO's 'Crashing' - Arrivals

Here’s some good news for all of us: The Great Wall bombed in its opening weekend in North America. The bad news is that it’s still a big hit in Asian markets, but still. At least North American audiences are totally over Matt Damon being China’s white savior. Personally, I think there was a way for Matt Damon to talk about his casting and why he made the movie without sounding so oblivious, so privileged and so dismissive. He just chose a different route, which was to conflate the issue and dismiss everything as “fake news” and “clickbait.” Last week, Asian Twitter went IN on him with the hashtag #ThankYouMattDamon. It was elegant! Here’s more about the box office:

Two mysterious billionaires, one of the toy variety, the other with a penchant for sex games, triumphed at the box office over a trio of new film releases during a muted President’s Day Weekend. Once again, “The Lego Batman Movie” loomed large at the multiplexes, picking up $42.5 million to take first place on the charts for the second consecutive weekend. The Warner Bros. release has now earned $107.1 million stateside. It focuses on a one-percenter who dons a bat costume in order to rescue Gotham City from the Joker.

In third place, Universal and Legendary Entertainment’s “The Great Wall” got bulldozed, taking in a shallow $21.7 million at 3,325 locations. That’s a paltry result given its $150 million price tag. The film has done well in China, where it was shot, earning $171 million, and in other markets. The movie centers on a European mercenary (Matt Damon) who battles monsters during the Song Dynasty. Damon’s casting was supposed to make stateside crowds interested in seeing a tale set in China, but it drew some blowback on social media.

“The Chinese-American hybrids are a tough sell,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “American audiences are wary. They think they’re white-washing cash grabs.”

[From Variety]

Again, if this was a little film made with a $30 million budget, a North American box office of $21 million would be great. But this cost $150 million to make and it’s the international box office which will save the film. So… well done, North America.

As for whether this “bomb” will affect Matty D’s career long-term… yeah, probably not. He’s still a white guy in Hollywood. He’ll continue to “win.”

Premiere of HBO's 'Crashing' - Arrivals

Photos courtesy of WENN, ‘The Great Wall’.

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82 Responses to “Matt Damon’s ‘The Great Wall’ is a box office bomb in North America”

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  1. Tray says:

    Blame it on the man bun.

  2. Maya says:

    The movie is titled “The Great Wall” and none of those deplorables aka trump supporters went to see it?

    You don’t say so. The title alone should have made them queue up at their local cinema. Maybe Fox Channel didn’t advertise and they didn’t know such a movie was out…,

    • Merry says:

      Damon is very problematic but he is still widely identified as a liberal. Maybe Trumpsters arent going because they suspect its a movie actually against building border walls. Plop Mel Gibson on that marquee with the same movie and it would sell out in Trump land.

  3. Insomniac says:

    “Oblivious, privileged and dismissive” seems to sum him up pretty well these days.

  4. minx says:

    I’m sorry, he looks ridiculous in those pictures.

  5. detritus says:

    I haven’t watched a Matty D film in a long time, and it’s making me feel pretty pleased. But, in recent years I’ve been pretty bad about keeping up with foreign/international cinema.

    I loved Ong Bak, Battle Royale, Spirited Away, Akira – all imports, but of a certain flavor for sure.
    Should I make the effort to watch Rashomon? Any other recommends?

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      Rashomon is a classic (tho I haven’t seen it!). “Ran” is amazing – known casually in a Western-referential way as “the Japanese King Lear.”

      • detritus says:

        Oooh, I didn’t have Ran on my list. Added. This is coming in good time, as I will be off for a few days on bed rest and will need some good stuff to keep me entertained!

    • SusanneToo says:

      “A Separation” and “About Elly” are two excellent Iranian films I watched last year. “High and Low” is one of the few(only?)Kurosawa films set in contemporary times and I love it. “24 Eyes” is a wonderful Japanese film from 1964. “Woman in the Dunes”(Japan/1964) and “Il Sorpasso”(Italy/1962)are both great. These are just a few. I could go on all day as I’ve seen thousands of films, at least a third of them non-American. I love these films that show despite our differences, we have so many similarities as humans.

      PS Jules and Jim/The 400 Blows/Breathless/L’Avventura/The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

      • detritus says:

        Oh, yes!
        I forgot about Iranian cinema! I want to see the vampire movie about the young girl in Iran, A Girl Walks Home At Night. It sounds a little ‘Let the Right One In’ which I loved in the original Swedish (it was Swedish, yes?)

        You have given me a ton to look into, thank you!

      • SusanneToo says:

        I love A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Ana Lily Amirpour’s next film The Bad Batch is coming out in June. I’m looking forward to that.

        Persepolis is also a very good film.

    • Lurker says:

      Ooh, detritus, if you liked Spirited Away, keep an eye out for other Studio Ghibli films – they are all AMAZING, I love My Neighbour Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke…anything directed by Miyazaki. You’re in for such a treat.

      Also, if you like Battle Royale, there are many excellent Japanese horror films you might be into – maybe give Ringu a go, see how you get on? I enjoy horror, so I’m biased ☺

      Oh, and pretty much my favourite foreign film of the last few years is the Danish film A Royal Affair – I thought it was DELIGHTFUL.

      And finally: because I have to recommend these to everyone, apparently: Joshua Oppenheimer made two documentaries in Indonesia – The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence… I’m not exaggerating when I say they are the greatest documentaries I’ve ever seen. Tough to watch at times, but god, they’re amazing.

      • detritus says:

        Ahaha, I try to stay away from straight horror, and go more for the thrillers, because I am a weeny baby, but if they are exceptionally well done I can get on board (Cabin in the Woods, It Follows, Dale and Tucker etc). The Oppenheimer docs have been on my list for awhile, I’m just scared at how depressing they will be. Time to bite the bullet though, I’ve only heard excellent things.

        I’ve found Miyazaki can be a bit… long? Do you have any recommends for some more concise story telling? Mononoke lost me, but it deserves another effort and studio Ghibli is such an artistic powerhouse.

        Definitely will look into A Royal Affair though!

      • Ayra. says:

        Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke and my Neighbour Totoro are legendary films! I’ve yet to find anything that can top them and captivate their audience as much in their genre.
        I’d definitely follow through with her recommendations when you have the time.

      • Lurker says:

        About the Oppenheimer docs- they really aren’t flat out depressing, at least I didn’t think so. They’re kind of life affirming, although in a weird way. I don’t want to say too much in case I spoil it for you, but I was worried they’d be hardcore upsetting, and I’m so glad I watched them.

        Miyazaki can be a bit long – I think it’s the storytelling style though – we’re used to 3 act structures, and Japanese films wind and meander through through the plot. If you don’t enjoy that, I’d recommend The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea – Irish animations (so again, I’m biased!) but they’re gorgeous and very sweet. Very heartwarming.

        @SusanneToo – I’ve been meaning to watch A Girl Walks Home… for ages, I’ll definitely make an effort to seek it before The Bad Batch comes out. Oh, and has anyone seen Wadjda? It’s so great – an Iranian girl is a tomboy and wants to get a bike – adorable – and it was made by a woman in Iran who had to direct from inside the back of a van, because she couldn’t just direct on the street. I love films like that, which show you a totally different world.

        Good talk, guys 💜

      • TheSageM says:

        Adding Porco Rosso as my favourite Ghibli film!

    • Midori says:

      “Red cliff”, two part movie, is stunning.
      Anything Miyazaki is well worth watching.
      “Twilight samurai” is wonderful.

      • detritus says:

        I will definitely check those two out! I especially love action movies, so I’m hoping twilight samurai may provide =)

      • Midori says:

        Twilight samurai is not so much an action movie, sorry – I should have clarified.
        Red cliff mixes action, mythology, philosophy and politics – I love such movies.

    • QQ says:

      Thirst ( I can’t even class it its horror/comedy/romance) and the Host from Park Chan-wook amazing movies turning tropes on their heads

      In the Mood for Love ( so Gorge) and Goodbye My Love *( same director- flawfree)

      • Lurker says:

        OMG yes to Park Chan-Wook!

        I’ve been meaning to watch the Kar-Wai Wong films for a while, so I’m definitely going to do that. Tony Leung is so beautiful, I fancied him like mad after Lust, Caution.

        God, we all have such excellent taste. Yay us!

      • QQ says:

        GOD. LUST CAUTION !!! how!?!??! HOW did I forget That!!!?!? Tony Leung is a Forever Hot Piece

      • detritus says:

        Ahh, excellent. Ladies, je t’aime.
        I love a good trope burning movie, so start with Lust, Caution, and then move on to Thirst and the Host.

        This is so excellent. I have three days of downtime, that needed filling, and everyone has given me such lovely suggestions I won’t want to go back to work.

    • tenniswho says:

      I agree Detritus, Miyazaki can be a bit too long – but I also really love spirited away. A great story also on a girl’s emancipation! Thanks for bringing it up today, already brightens my day:)
      Talking about Park Chan-Wook: Has anyone seen “I’m a cyborg but that’s okay” – I think it is very, very lovely.

  6. Radley says:

    I understand the argument that it’s not viewed as “whitewashing” or “white savior” in China because they’re a mostly homogeneous culture that doesn’t have these issues per se. However, Matt Damon is very much an American and should have known this was not a good look. It’s ok to pass on a role, Matt. You should have passed. And now, not only do you have a domestic bomb on your hands, but you also look like a tone deaf, self-serving, white dude. Lesson learned, I hope.

  7. HK9 says:

    It is a white wash in my opinion and I want to see Asian actors in those roles. I’m an avid movie watcher (I go to film festivals at home and if I had more money I’d travel) and I would have supported this movie if the casting was done properly.

    • Megan says:

      If Donnie Yen had been cast as the lead I would have seen this movie five times because he is an incredible actor and I love looking at his gorgeous face.

    • jude says:

      According to a couple of reviews of this film, The Great Wall wasn’t a white saviour movie at all. In fact, Matt Damon’s character was more or less a cheerleader fawning over China while the Chinese characters get all the character development and make all the plans to save their land .

      I guess the way this movie was promoted (in America, at least, I don’t know how the trailer was cut in China/Asia) made it seem like Matt Damon saves the day. But I’m guessing that’s mostly because framing the story that way seemed more palatable to American audiences than ‘Dumb but generally well-meaning Westerners are in constant awe of the might of Chinese unity and cultural advancements’. Though it’s apparently not a very good movie in general.

      Idk, after hearing this and thinking about all the fuss people made over this film, despite being constantly told how involved the Chinese were in making it, it mostly made me think that American’s really overestimate how much the Chinese view them and underestimate how much the Chinese view themselves.

    • MiniMii says:

      I saw the movie and enjoyed it. It’s far from white-washing. The two non-Chinese characters are not swooping in to save the day for the poor Chinese who’d be lost without them, and the characters were written to be played by non-Asian actors. I recommend people actually watch it before making uninformed judgements.

      *spoiler below*

      Damon’s character is a self-serving petty criminal who learns a lot from the guardians of the wall – respect, honor, bravery, and the value of friendship. I thought (especially in the current climate of xenophobia) it was a great message about learning to respect other cultures and learning from them as well.

      • Kimmie says:

        Thank you! I also saw the movie and have the same thoughts. It’s sad that people aren’t finding out for themselves what the movie is really about, and instead, are taking the word of someone who is misinformed.

  8. Bridget says:

    I think it’s bad karma to actually rejoice in someone’s failure. But yeah, “white washed cash grab” pretty much says it all.

    • TQB says:

      “American audiences are wary. They think they’re white-washing cash grabs.” I think this is the nicest thing anyone has said about Americans since November 8.

  9. Daisy says:

    So this was a bomb, but if a Chinese actor was the lead, would it even make that much? It’s not like foreign language movies do great in the US.

    • freebunny says:

      Rather ask if it would have been released in the US.

    • Margo S. says:


      They could have cast an American or Canadian born Asian actor in the lead role. No subtitles necessary. The script should have been changed and not had a euro mercenary as the lead. It’s 2017. We don’t want this sh!t anymore.

      • freebunny says:

        Sorry but this argument is problematic @Margo.

        The real question is why chinese movie with chinese cast can’t be successfull in the US, except for few movies. Same can be said about any non-english speaking movie.

        So your answer is cast a canadian or an american. You don’t answer the real question here which is why the american market is so closed.

      • Daisy says:

        Exactly freebunny.

        And an American born Asian is stil American.
        Besides, is there an American born Asian on the level od stardom od Matt Damon ( and I know that’s problematic on itself, but we’re talking about the situation we have now). And having an Asian actor but keeping it in English?

        I completely agree with resenting Matt Damon because he should have known better, but you can not watch everything trough the American lens and expect the entire world to act accordingly.

      • grumpy says:

        American cinema still often re-writes stories and history from other white English speaking countries to make them Americanised (much to the chagrin of people in those countries) so I wouldn’t hold out much hope for non-English speaking people.
        Also how many times do ‘baddies’ in films speak with English accents, whilst the majority of the ‘goodies’ have American accents – quite a lot it seems.
        I think there is just a general approach to film making that wants to Americanise everything to appeal to the audience.

      • Ana says:

        Ugh the whole point of the movie is that they are foreigners who learn about this amazing culture. The story would make no sense with Asian actors in those roles.

  10. mellie says:

    I saw the previous at the theater and this movie looked so dumb and uninteresting, I’m not surprised that it wasn’t a big hit. Do they even poll people before they go out and make a $150 million dollar movie to see if an audience would be attracted to a film with this subject matter? (And I mean that as nothing towards Chinese/Asian history – I like that subject, but Matt Damon as a lead….? I don’t get that either…)

    • TGosha says:

      I agreed that the movie look uninteresting. Foreign movies with subtitles can well. I remember being excited to see crouching tiger many years ago.

  11. ElleBee says:

    EEEgh My sister went to see it and said it wasn’t bad but I refuse to go

  12. Kiki says:

    I am at this point have had it up here with Matt Damon and his white counterparts who still dung their heads in the sand about the social change that is happening everywhere. I have also had it with Hollywood for their “beautiful lilly white people” that is all good and dandy in this world but still will not open their eyes about what is happening. Yes, I have to agree there are some changes but there is still more work to do. I knew that “Great Wall” is going to bomb because it looks stupid and of course “White Man will save poor defenseless minority people” and everyone is going to live happily ever after. Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and their “white buddies” should really shut up right now.

    As for the Oscars. I am done with the Academy Awards and the people who are going to win. With the exception of Viola Davis and Marshala Ali (I hope I spell his name right) they can say whatever they want about the social injustice around them because they are Black and Muslim (Viola Davis is not Muslim, I know that). I will support that. But the rest of these white counterparts want to say something about social injustice and intolerance that divides people should really need to SHUT UP because THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE IN A MINORITIES’ SHOES. They will say I hate Donald Trump in their award speech whilst holding their award and when they go backstage they will be holding their award with a big smile on their faces. This why I am done with the Academy Awards Show. This is how I am sick and tired and fed up with these RICH, ENTITLED, WHITE PRIVILEGED people who are such hypocrites and have such audacity to say something that they can kumbayah with everyone when everything is not OK.

    • Ana says:

      Chinese are not minority in China, you know…

    • Aoife says:

      “White Man will save poor defenseless minority people”? Errrm, despite the hysterical tone of your reaction the film doesn’t actually involve a white person saving China, not that the facts seem to trouble you. More importantly, why are you dismissing the Chinese as a poor minority people! The film is set and made in China ffs – you can’t simply extend internal US political dynamics to the entire world. It’s not the case that if you are a minority in the US then you are a minority, period. And this is not least the case when speaking about the Chinese, who have a huge domestic film market and number well over one billion people!

  13. Jesie says:

    Can we drop the idea that it’s offensive to Chinese people actually living in China? It’s made almost 180 million in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and been very well-received, which is no surprise as if anything it’s pro-China propaganda that rewrites Chinese history to have their wars with the Mongols look far, far more successful than they were.

    It’s a crap movie and that’s why it’s done relatively poorly here, but it’s very much served it’s purpose in China. Which was the larger goal here. Hollywood has tested the waters and found there is a big market for American/Chinese co-productions in China. Expect to see a lot more.

    • sanders says:

      Agreed. Chinese in China, and the Asian diaspora living in the US and Canada are two distinct groups with different interests and life experiences.
      I am not at all surprised it did well in China. They have all kinds of films starring Chinese actors and having Matt Damon in one film is not a threat to their cultural identity. Also, they have their own share of internalized colonialism. Some real estate companies in China use white people to market their properties.

      Having said that, as a person of South Asian origin living in the West, I would never see this film. I find Matt Damon super annoying.

    • Margo S. says:


      I wouldn’t necessarily call this a success in China. It only made its budget, but I can tell you that execs in hollywood expected to fork over $150 mil and make 1 billion. That probably won’t happen.

      Plus, the director of this film is one of the most successful chinese directors around. People in China love his films so obviously went to support him. Will hollywood give him another chance to direct? I doubt it.

      • Ana says:

        It is a success in China. It is a success in the rest of the world. It’s not a huge phenomenon like The Avengers, but it’s done well. Except in the US of course.

        I wish people would go and see the movie and then bash it if they think it deserves it. Having informed opinions is a good thing.

  14. Saks says:

    I’m confused. Isn’t this movie mainly Chinese? (Mostly chinese $, director and cast). I was under the impression this was planned to be a hit in China and their first venture into the US movie market.

    Also, I remember a Chinese person explained in a previous post about this film why they didn’t consider this movie whitewashing and if I remember correctly it had to do with the fact that their movie industry is pretty homogenous and he/she argued this was actually diversity in their context.

    I’m not interested at all in watching this film or like Damon anymore, but in this case it may be more complex that just shouting white-washing, maybe?

    • detritus says:

      It was first planned as an American movie, with an American director and studio.
      A few commentors discussed this on the last thread, but I don’t have the links handy.

    • Bridget says:

      But that argument makes no sense – it’s like saying that we shouldn’t talk about racism because in Great Britain they don’t discriminate against black people. Here in the US (and again, this is a US production as well, and we are on a US gossip site) Asians are historically underrepresented in cinema and when they are in movies, it’s perpetually as side kicks or villains. There’s a growing movement for diversity not just in the cast as a whole but in leading roles – to not just see a white man save the day each time. And Matt Damon holds himself up as someone who stands for equality, and yet what we’ve seen from him over the last year or two is that when it comes to his own actions and choices he’s missing the point.

      • Sixer says:

        I think some people are making the point that Chinese cinema has no obligation to cater to imbalances in the US industry when making its own films. Which doesn’t seem unreasonable? I’m sure the Chinese industry has imbalances of its own which should be addressed and it should concentrate on those. I have to admit, it does seem rather exceptionalist to suggest that Chinese film should cater to problems in American film, you know?

      • Bridget says:

        I don’t think that China is obligated to cater to American tastes, but does that mean that we absolve the American side of the production? I certainly don’t think so.

      • freebunny says:

        Except that you miss all the point.

        The fact is that if a chinese movie wants to be successfull in the USA it NEEDS an american white actor, otherwise no one will see it and it won’t be released.

        If chinese studios think it’s better for them to hire an american white actor, it’s not to you to expain them what they should do or not. It’s a chinese movie, with chinese money and 99% chinese cast.

        I guess the chinese studios don’t care about the lessons of racism coming from America when american people won’t move their ass to see a full chinese movie anyway.

      • Sixer says:

        There was a big long thread about this film ages ago on here… um… last summer? Greenieweenie and a couple of others, who have direct experience in Chinese film, went into great detail about it. I remember it and remember being persuaded by it but am not sufficiently interested (mea culpa!) to recall all the dots and crosses. I’d recommend looking it up.

        I mean, if this movie does badly stateside, Chinese film-makers might want to reconsider what will sell stateside if they do prioritise selling stateside. Of course. But even so, Chinese film-makers should be under no obligation whatsoever to correct deficiencies in the US industry, which is the tone of many comments here. That really is exceptionalist thiinking.

      • Bridget says:

        The intention of this movie was to make a production that appealed to both Chinese and US sensibilities. It sold in China, but it did NOT sell in the US, thereby failing at half of that equation. This wasn’t solely a Chinese production, and the people that greenlighted it thinking that Matt Damon surrounded by a Chinese cast counts as diversity may have learned an expensive lesson (as did the folks who made Gods Of Egypt). China money is big, but as noted in the article this was a blatant cash-grab, and it deserves to be treated as so.

        By the way, I think I had initially intended for my reply to go to a different comment upthread, but I either my memory is faulty or folks edited their comments.

      • lyla says:

        here’s my take as a hapa. hollywood would sometimes cast well known asian in their movies to appeal to asian audiences, but these roles are secondary, tertiary, or often throw-away roles. a lot of asians are annoyed to see their stars in those roles and at the obvious money grab. And in this case, it seems like Matt Damon was cast in a movie to appeal to American audience, but it also failed because it was marketed in a white savior way. I don’t know what the American production team was thinking. And Damon’s answers didn’t help.

      • Ana says:

        That’s not how co-productions work. The Great Wall was an experiment that looks to integrate chinese movies in the Hollywood market and the Hollywood market in China. For that, you need a story that will work in both markets, with actors from both countries. Guess what, the chinese audiences embraced the movie, done by one of their greatest directors with a famous Hollywood star. While in the US, instead of understanding what a huge step this is in the integration of two very different cultures, they just couldn’t see beyond their own obsession with racism everywhere. The movie has a great deal of chinese culture, with a mostly poc cast (including a latino actor), and instead of supporting a diverse production you are just repeating what others say without going to see it for yourself.

    • lucy2 says:

      That’s the impression I had too – it was made for the Chinese audience, and if they could pick up additional money in the US by having MD star in it, great for them, but that wasn’t the big goal. Honestly I’m surprised it opened as well as it did here, I wondered if it would break $10 million opening weekend.
      Financially it will probably all work out fine for the filmmakers, but I think this was a bad move for Matt, who has shown a lot of tone deafness lately. It’s really an impossible position to try to defend claims of white washing, and it would be nice if these hugely successful actors were aware enough to say no to things like that.

  15. laulau says:

    There is something sort of xenophobic about this sort of ‘bombed in america’ nonsense. at some point americans need to accept that your tastes aren’t the ultimate arbiter nor is your box office more relevant.
    this stupid movie happened to do very well in china. as much as i would never see this heap of bad extensions it is silly to discount an audience simply because they aren’t you.

  16. Margo S. says:

    I have to say, I think this flop also has something to do with his involvement in Manchester by the sea and not commenting on the piece of sh!t casey. I think this might be the end of his career. He’s so blatantly a cocky son of a b!tch and people are really starting to not like him. The only way I think his career can be saved is if he gets a new publicist.

  17. token5151 says:

    Saw the movie over the weekend, thought it was awesome! Matt Damon was terrific in it.

  18. Moxie Remon says:

    Vengeance is mine, thus saith the lord.

  19. Barbara says:

    Matt can do no wrong in my eyes.

  20. Lucy says:

    Ok, but how many of you guys have actually, you know, gone and seen the movie? I’ve heard from several people who did, and apparently it’s far from being the white-saviour-y/whitewashed film so many people seem to think it is/want it to be. As poster Jude has said above, there’s a sense of underestimation (sp?) about how Americans see the Chinese, and about how they think the Chinese see themselves.

  21. Bread and Circuses says:

    I think the truth is it doesn’t matter if this was a bomb in the US.

    Hollywood is getting wise to the fact that their epic, CGI-extravaganza action films are very popular overseas and they can make huge profits by catering to other markets. They don’t need the United States anymore, except for the initial investors.

  22. Karen says:

    Well I love old fashioned Asian movies where they fight etc. If its in english then thats good for me! I can do with subtitles as well.

    If he wasnt the lead we wouldnt have the movie, so I will enjoy it anyway

  23. Ash says:

    hopefully he gets a razzie for this…havent seen it and dont want to

    who next on the white savior POC-face train…. 2017 looks like the face of white actors doing brown face and bronze face (latino/hispanic and middle eastern roles)

  24. Trixie says:

    If the film had starred an Asian actor, do you think it would have done any better? I think the film would have bombed in the US no matter who starred in the film.

  25. Libra girl says:

    Not shocked by this one bit.