Star Wars is a box office powerhouse nearly everywhere that it opens, but there's one nation that has never been huge fans of the franchise, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi isn't changing that trend. Star Wars has just never been a huge deal in China, and while Disney and Lucasfilm have spent a lot of time and money to change that, neither Star Wars: The Force Awakens nor Rogue One: A Star Wars Story did particularly huge numbers in the middle kingdom. Now Star Wars: The Last Jedi has opened there, but it has only brought in about $7 million so far, which isn't even enough to put the film in first place.
The Star Wars: The Last Jedi numbers are about half what the movie The Ex-Files: Return of the Exes has done, which brought in $15.7 million and is starting its second weekend. To be fair, Star Wars was up against the third film in an obviously popular Chinese franchise, and it does have a much better title. However, according to Variety, it's also showing on significantly fewer screens across the country.
While it's still early, this is clearly not a good sign for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The Force Awakens was able to hold on to the top spot at the Chinese box office for three weeks, even though it didn't put up numbers that were comparable to what it did domestically. If the new film ends up in second place out of the gate, it's unlikely to recover, and it could indicate that China, in general, is losing whatever interest they had in Star Wars as a whole.
The original Star Wars trilogy came out during a period when all western media was banned in China, and as such, the country simply doesn't have the connection to the property that so many others do. In fact, the original trilogy only made its debut shortly before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This means that while new movies in the series are all but guaranteed to be hits in most other countries, Disney has to actually make an effort to promote the movies in China. And that is something that they have absolutely done. They had a Stormtrooper army march on the Great Wall of China before the release of Episode VII but that appears to have had only a marginal impact.
China is essentially the reason that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is only the third highest grossing film in the world, and not the second or the first. Unless things change over the weekend, it looks like the franchise won't be setting any records of any kind in China.