Marvel’s Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternities, and Spider-Man: No way home are all without release dates in China, the largest box office area in the world, at the time of writing. This is a problem for the bottom line of the study.
Black widow was generally a success, although it did not hit the same benchmark benchmarks that we are used to seeing from Marvel (duh, it’s a pandemic). Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings is a triumph of an origin story that gives MCU a new blockbuster-leading hero to build around. Eternities, from reigning best director winner Chloé Zhao, seems to be one of the franchise’s more unique items. And Spider-Man: No way home is poised to become the highest-grossing film of 2021.
But without a Chinese release, MCU’s big screen comeback after COVID is like trying to defeat Thanos without Infinity Gauntlet.
Here are the Chinese gross for the last ten MCU images and the percentage they represent for each film’s total gross worldwide.
Spider-Man: Far from home: $ 205.4 million (18.1%)
Avengers: Endgame: $ 629.1 million (22.4%)
Captain Marvel: $ 153.8 million (13.6%)
Ant-Man & The Wasp: $ 120.7 million (19.3%)
Avengers: Infinity War: $ 359.5 million (17.5%)
Black Panther: $ 104.6 million (7.8%)
Thor: Ragnarok: $ 112 million (13.1%)
Spider-Man: Homecoming: $ 118.8 million. (13.5%)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: $ 99.3 million (11.4%)
Doctor Strange: $ 110.3 million (16.3%)
China is a consistent nine-figure-plus box office region for Marvel, accounting for an average of 15.3% of an MCU’s global gross compared to the franchise’s last 10 entires. Continued rollouts without China leave hundreds of millions of dollars on the table for the studio. But there’s not much Disney can do considering the country increasingly stringent controls of imports from Hollywood.
Black widow has already been devastated by global piracy since its release the same day in both theaters and on Disney + Premier Access. A similar approach dulled Mulan‘s ticket office prospects in China ($ 41 million in total) due to piracy. Shang-Chi rumors of possibly getting a September 23 release in the Middle Kingdom, though it is still unofficial. (It is common for Hollywood images to be released in China weeks after their global debut). Chinese authorities have objected to the comic nature, Dr. Fu Manchu, which has ties to Shang-Chi in the source material but is not in the movie version.
“Fu Manchu is not in this movie, is not Shang-Chi’s father, and again is not even a Marvel character, and has not been for decades,” said Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige Variety.
In an excavated 2013 interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Zhao – who grew up in China – referred to the country as “a place where there are lies everywhere.” This recently triggered setbacks by officials, which may prevent Eternities from being released in China. The film also features MCU’s first openly gay superhero, who would not be approved by Chinese regulators censoring material they find unsuitable for the Chinese public. [insert eye roll]. Spider-Man: No way home, which is a Sony release produced by Marvel Studios, is best placed to break into China. But because of the MCU’s carefully crafted interconnected stories, there is a concern that a blackout on an entire segment of Marvel movies could lead to confusion in future entries that actually hit Chinese theaters. (Disney + shows are not available in China through state-approved platforms).
On the flip side, one can argue that there are clear moral benefits to no longer meeting Chinese government requirements regarding Hollywood product. But when has Hollywood’s industrial complex ever rated ethics over profit? China, with 70,000 full-screen cinema screens, holds too much economic upside for Marvel to ignore.