Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a $1 billion hit for Lucasfilm, but the sequel is failing to make much of an impact at the Chinese box office. After opening in a majority of the world a few weeks back in mid-December, the latest episode of the Skywalker family saga is set to debut in China this weekend. While many Hollywood tentpoles perform very well in that country, the galaxy far, far away hasn't been so lucky in these first few years of the franchise's renaissance.
Only $124.1 million of The Force Awakens' $2 billion total came from China, and Rogue One fared even worse with $69.4 million. This can be attributed to the Star Wars property first gaining popularity in 1977, well before the Chinese marketplace became a viable asset for film studios. While the series is well-known around the globe, it doesn't have as much resonance in China when compared to other territories - a fact that's definitely confirmed with these latest box office figures.
Per THR, The Last Jedi brought in $560,000 from midnight screenings, which is not even in the same ballpark of Episode VII's $2.5 million. All signs are pointing to Rian Johnson's film having to settle for second-place at the box office this weekend, with comedy The Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes coming on top. This is despite Last Jedi playing on more screens and being the week's shiny new release. The Ex-File 3 opened in China a week ago.
While this situation is unfortunate for Disney and Lucasfilm, they probably aren't losing too much sleep over Star Wars 8's lackluster Chinese performance. The film is a bona fide smash, expected to end its theatrical run with $1.6 billion worldwide. To date, it has earned $1.1 billion globally, $544.6 million of which has come from the U.S. Last Jedi recently passed fellow Disney blockbuster Beauty and the Beast to become 2017's highest-grossing film domestically. It is the third consecutive Star Wars film to top the yearly Stateside chart, so there's no denying the movie has been quite successful overall.
With the Chinese box office results only getting worse as time goes on, there doesn't seem to be much Lucasfilm can do to turn things around. It's highly unlikely this summer's spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story (which has yet to start its marketing campaign) will reverse the trend, so Kathleen Kennedy and company may have to accept Star Wars isn't going to be a big deal in China. This isn't to say they shouldn't release their future films in the country (whatever extra money they make is good), but it may not be worth to do a major promotional push in an attempt to generate interest.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019