As Hollywood continues to adjust to the realities of a new global marketplace where international audiences are just as, if not more, important as domestic fans to a blockbuster feature’s success, more and more films are making specific pitches to regions with different expectations and cultural histories that demand unique forms of advertising that differ from the norm in both subtle and obvious ways.
Case in point: This new China-targeted trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The trailer, which was specially prepared for audiences in mainland China, doesn’t offer too much in the way of new footage, save for extended versions of Jyn Erso’s flashbacks and longer takes on big action beats; most of the shots and effects sequences should be familiar to those who’ve followed the film’s hype thus far. However, the more specific spelling-out of the plot, character motivations and familiar Star Wars lore (which most Western fans wouldn’t be assumed to need a refresher on) indicate trailer-cutting techniques more expected of Chinese movie advertising for a film in this franchise.
China is the world’s largest and fastest-growing market for feature films, with Chinese audience (and state-run Chinese film industry) preferences being credited with the explosion in popularity of everything from IMAX to 3D to “interactive” 4D motion-theaters. Every major studio has a “China strategy” now, and Disney has been right at the forefront of making inroads to the tightly-controlled and often idiosyncratic Chinese marketplace in order to maintain its standing as a major global entertainment company.
While many popular Western blockbuster franchises have found runaway success in China (the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, in particular, the Transformers films being among the most popular), others have struggled – at least in relative terms. While Star Wars: The Force Awakens was very successful in China, it was not nearly as successful there as Disney and Lucasfilm had anticipated; it was defeated at the box office by the low-budget Chinese animated feature Boonie Bears 3 in 2015.
Notably, the original Star Wars films did not receive an official wide release in China, and Chinese audiences are not known to share the wide nostalgic attachment to the franchise that many Western nations do. Rogue One, which features Chinese superstar Donnie Yen in a key role, has been framed as part of an attempt to help the brand find greater success with such audiences, who have only had wide legal access to many U.S. blockbuster properties for a relatively short amount of time.