In an attempt to reach out to Chinese audiences, Disney is partnering up with Tencent's China Literature, China's biggest online publisher, to release a new Chinese Star Wars novel. Plot details are largely unknown at the moment, but if it succeeds, it will increase Chinese audiences' appetites for more Star Wars projects.
Despite being popular almost everywhere else, the Star Wars franchise has had poor luck in resonating with China. This is largely due to the fact that the original films were not released in China until recently. During the 70s, few Western movies were shown in China. Nostalgia is a huge part of the franchise's success today, and that factor is missing there. Ever since 2015's The Force Awakens, box office numbers have gone down, with Solo: A Star Wars Story earning only $16.5 million in 2018.
According to Variety, China Literature will feature 40 original Star Wars e-books that have been previously released in addition to the new novel. This is the first time these novels will be available on this platform, and for the first week they will be free. The new book will be written by a Chinese internet novelist known as "His Majesty the King" to come up with a Star Wars story that will "bring in Chinese elements and unique Chinese storytelling methods." "His Majesty the King" is popular online, a previous book of his having been turned into an anime series by Tencent in 2016.
In partnering with China Literature, Disney is aiming big. The online platform says it has 217 million users every month, as well as nearly 8 million authors. The CEO of China Literature Wu Wenhui spoke to reporters and said, "We hope we can help more Chinese readers engage with ‘Star Wars’ stories and help the force of ‘Star Wars’ shine brighter in China."
With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker only a couple of months away, Disney is gearing up for the release in a big way. The timing of this partnership seems smart, if only to raise awareness for The Rise of Skywalker just a tiny bit in China. It is unclear how many new fans the novels will attract, especially since there does not seem to be much excitement for the franchise already, but it appears to be a logical move. If this venture succeeds, China's numbers for the final installment in the Skywalker Saga could increase. The previous film in the Saga, The Last Jedi, hit $42.6 million in China two years ago. Disney is probably hoping the number does not decrease further, though the gross for Solo makes predictions appear quite grim. Only time will tell if the Star Wars library can pull more fans in.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019