Rogue One: A Star Wars Story actor Donnie Yen talks about why Star Wars films don't perform well in China. The last Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, was pulled from all Chinese theaters after just two weeks following its release.
In its opening weekend in China, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi pulled in $28.7 million, and only made $2.4 million in its second week. Solo: A Star Wars Story bombed in China with only $3 million in its opening day. Force Awakens and Rogue One performed much better, but even their numbers were considered disappointing in comparison to how well the movies performed in other markets. It should be noted that China is the second biggest moviegoing market in the world.
In an interview with JoBlo on his new film Big Brother, Donnie Yen talks about the differences between making movies in China and the United States and touches on how some films, such as the Star Wars movies, don't perform well in China. Yen compares China's lack of interest in the Star Wars franchise to their enthusiasm for Marvel movies, which have thrived in China.
Yeah, and that’s unfortunate. Star Wars – Chinese audiences didn’t grow up with Star Wars culture so unfortunately it didn’t work. Marvel is a lot easier to understand. Star Wars, there’s a whole universe out there. Marvel, from the costumes, to the music, to the idols, to the stars, it's much easier to close the gap between the film itself and the audience.
It's certainly true that the Star Wars franchise hasn't endeared itself to Chinese audiences in the way that it has with Western audiences. The original Star Wars trilogy didn't receive a wide release in China, and didn't premiere in the country until 2015, just in time for Force Awakens. Much of the success and popularity of the Star Wars films in the West comes from the nostalgia and appreciation for the characters, lore, and concepts that were created over 40 years ago. The Star Wars movies have never had this level of effect on Chinese moviegoers, who haven't had decades to develop an attachment to the franchise.
As Yen points out, Chinese audiences tend to prefer Marvel movies. Marvel films are easier to follow in China, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe is relatively new in comparison to Star Wars. Marvel movies make up a sizable chunk of their box office gross in China. Even the Captain America films, which would seem difficult to market overseas, perform exceptionally well in China. Avengers: Infinity War received a rare release extension in China and made $300 million in just its second weekend, making the film China's highest grossing Marvel movie.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019