Star Wars: The Last Jedi might have smashed box office earnings in America, but it’s doing so badly in China that it’s losing to the third installment of a local comedy franchise that has already been in theaters for over a week, according to a new report in The Hollywood Reporter.
China is the “final major box-office test” for The Last Jedi, according to THR, but it has already underperformed. Rian Johnson’s Star Wars movie earned $560,000 in previews, which is strikingly low compared to what Star Wars: The Force Awakens earned in previews: $2.5 million. Another major American blockbuster, The Fate of the Furious, currently holds the record for earnings at a preview with a cool $8.7 million total.
But even after the previews, The Last Jedi still left a less than impressive mark on a Chinese audience. At the time of writing, the latest stats from mobile ticketing service Maoyan show that The Last Jedi has earned around $5 million at the box office on its first Friday in theaters. By comparison, a local comedy that has been already out for a full week, The Ex-Files 3, earned $11.6 million on the same Friday. And all this despite The Last Jedi getting a 35.6 percent share of all Chinese movie screens, and a few percent more than The Ex-Files 3. It's unlikely that the movie will pick up enough steam to cause a dent in this trend.
(To be totally honest, the concept of the Ex-Files doesn’t sound half bad: ex-girlfriends plotting revenge on their trash ex-boyfriends. Throw in some fan-favorite actors and that could make for some quality entertainment. Plus, the full title of the movie currently in theaters in The Ex-Files 3: Return of the Exes, which sounds suspiciously like a Star Wars parody.)
Of course, it's not as though The Last Jedi has been a financial disaster: It has already grossed $1.11 billion worldwide.
The Last Jedi’s dodgy sales are not necessarily a comment on the quality of the film itself; the entire Star Wars franchise has historically underperformed in China. The Force Awakens, for example, earned $124 million in the country in 2016 but that only earned it the 13th spot in a ranking of films that made the most money in China for that year. In North America, The Force Awakens was number one, with a hefty $936.6 million box office haul.
What The Last Jedi does help show, however, is that Chinese audiences are finding Star Wars movies less and less appealing. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story—which counted two Chinese actors among its cast—earned $69.5 million in China last year and placed a measly 35th in the country’s ranking of box office profits. In case you hadn’t noticed a trend yet, Rogue One was also North America’s number one movie in ticket sales last year.
As the Star Wars universe continues to grow, Disney will likely be interested in understanding why these movies are underperforming in China. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, the Chinese box office market is growing: ticket revenue hit a record $8.6 million last year, with a 13.5 percent expansion in the market. With this growth, China is on the verge of surpassing North America as the largest theatrical market in the world.