Star Wars: The Last Jedi has taken its global cume to $1,122.4M with Thursday included. Within that, the international box office total is now $573.5M. The film has passed Skyfall and The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King to become the No. 16 global release of all time. But the Force is not working in its favor in China.
The Rian Johnson-helmed Episode VIII opened with midnight Middle Kingdom screenings on Thursday and played its first full day today (Friday). The unofficial estimate there is about $8.5M-$9.6M with and without previews.
That portends a roughly $25M-$30M three-day, depending on the Sat/Sun play. And there’s not much space in the Middle Kingdom galaxy before Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle swings in next Friday, meaning Jedi will come in well below both Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($124M final) and last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($69.5M — both films at historical rates).
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Before we get into what’s happening in the Middle Kingdom (see below), let’s look at what Thursday brought in the rest of the world.
TLJ made $14M globally, of which the overseas total was $9.7M for 14% of last weekend. In the UK, the Disney/Lucasfilm continuation of the sci-fi saga is now the No. 1 film of 2017 with £73.1M, spending 22 consecutive days at the top of the local chart. It is currently the No. 7 movie ever in the UK/Ireland. In U.S. dollars, it is approaching $100M.
Rounding out the Top 5 Jedi bases are still Germany ($68.2M), France ($53.7M), Japan ($49M) and Australia ($37.9M).
Now back to China. Facing facts: The Last Jedi was never going to be a slam dunk there. As we’ve reminded since The Force Awakens was setting up its Middle Kingdom bow in 2015, the country has a lack of familiarity with the franchise. That means there is essentially no nostalgia that comes close to what we see in other markets. And sci-fi as a whole is not the go-to genre.
Disney has done its level best to carve out a niche for Star Wars. In 2015 it put 500 Stormtroopers on the Great Wall in a widely-mediatized stunt and had Lu Han as the official ambassador. Last year’s Rogue One featured local mega-stars Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen in what felt like organic, rather than stunt, casting.
But there was little in the Last Jedi story to up the ante. We also hear that the important 2nd and 3rd tier cities are not responding. And, there’s a smash local comedy out that is dominating in its 2nd week.
Holding a splashy premiere at the Disney Shanghai Resort in December was a good move for Jedi and the film has been heavily marketed locally where the team worked hard to spread the word. Characters in the movie also have brief introductions with subtitles.
Does all this mean mean Disney should throw in the towel on China where Star Wars is concerned? Given the Jedi world and all it encompasses is already well-built, it’s hard to imagine how world-building with specific China appeal could be handled. Then again, Coco may have just turned around Pixar’s traditionally soft Middle Kingdom fortunes — we’ll know more when The Incredibles 2 bows there this year and see if that Disney brand’s appeal has been maintained.
It’s disappointing that Disney hasn’t been able to crack China on what is such a beloved — and debated — franchise in much of the rest of the world. But $1,122.4M global and counting is still nothing to shake a lightsaber at.
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