As far as major film franchises go, there are none quite as massively popular as Star Wars. George Lucas' colorful and beloved world has been passed down across the generations, resulting in a massive fanbase that is all too happy to shell out money with each new release. And while the galaxy far, far away is woven into American pop culture, it doesn't carry the same weight internationally. The China market, which has become a saving grace for many blockbusters, is thoroughly disinterested in the Star Wars franchise, despite it being just about the biggest property in the world. Rogue One actor Donnie Yen is from Honk Kong, and recently spoke to the disconnection between Chinese audiences and the Star Wars franchise as a whole:
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.
Sometimes show business is just about public opinion and word of mouth. And without decades of Star Wars installments and phrases like "I am your father" being repeated ad nauseam, it's hard to get the Chinese audience excited about the series we know so well.
Donnie Yen's comments to JoBlo get to the heart of the problem, and Star Wars' lack of significant performance in the Eastern market. While Star Wars has consistently broken records and dominated at the box office since it returned to theaters with The Force Awakens, Chinese audiences aren't flocking to the theaters. And although Lucasfilm has pulled out all the stops with bold marketing choices, the money simply isn't there.
This can be especially seen with Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The subversive sequel may have divided fans, but Chinese audiences were largely unenthused. The Last Jedi lost at the box office in its opening weekend in China, and only a month later, there were almost no more theaters showing it. In fact, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom made the same amount of gross with its opening weekend in China than The Last Jedi's entire haul.
While the Chinese market hasn't been a friend to the galaxy far, far away, there are plenty of movies that have found a saving grace with eastern audiences. One major example is 2016's Warcraft. While it had a disappointing box office performance in America, it resonated with Chinese moviegoers, and the flick made a insane $145 million in four days. The Rock's recent action movie Skyscraper was also saved from box office disaster in China, as it made $75 million during its opening weekend.
The next installment in the Star Wars franchise is J.J. Abrams' untitled sequel Episode IX on December 20th 2019. In the meantime, check out our 2018 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.