In another move to familiarize Chinese audiences with The Force, The Empire and the Ewoks, Disney and online giant Tencent have entered a pact to create a single digital hub for the first six films in the epic Star Wars series. Millions in the Middle Kingdom will from today have unprecedented access to the saga ahead of the global release of Episode VII: The Force Awakens in December. Tencent signed the exclusive TVOD and SVOD deals for mainland China with Disney and 20th Century Fox which still retains some rights.
The Tencent hub will be “the ultimate destination for fans around the country to experience the saga and stay up to date on all things Star Wars,” the companies said today. The portal will also host additional content including shorts, behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes, video featurettes and a curated collection of classic Star Wars extras from each of the original films.
The brand has not traditionally been as well known in China as it is elsewhere in Asian markets, like Japan. The first three films (Episodes IV-VI) were never released in the Middle Kingdom, while Episodes I-III cumulatively grossed $18.7M (albeit in a vastly different market to today). To raise awareness for Star Wars, Disney played all six titles at June’s Shanghai International Film Festival and later said there would be a Star Wars attraction at the Shanghai Disney Resort which is due to open in spring 2016. Also making local headlines for the upcoming films, local superstars Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen have been cast in Rogue One, the first film in the Star Wars Anthology series.
It appears unlikely Star Wars will get a China release date in December along with the rest of the world as the month is typically a blackout period when Hollywood movies are sidelined. But that could ultimately help with the buzz factor.
Sy Lau, SEVP of Tencent and President of Tencent Online Media Group said today, “Through this collaboration with Disney and 20th Century Fox, we will elevate and tailor the Star Wars experience for fans via Tencent’s strong understanding of the market and the viral network effect of the highly-connected Tencent user base.”.
Carol Choi, VP Marketing at The Walt Disney Company China, added, “We can extend the Star Wars franchise to Tencent’s massive user base and go to the heart of digital lifestyles in China. Tencent’s multi-platform capabilities and track record in distributing and protecting IP made it the clear choice for this collaboration.”
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment China MD Alvin Fu added, “This is a huge win for the existing fans as well as those who will be introduced to the iconic movies through this collaboration.”