‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Struggling to Second-Place Opening in China

Star Wars: The Last Jedi” looks on course for a slow and disappointing opening in China, the last major territory to release the picture.

Despite a massive screen count and the full force of Disney’s marketing power, early screenings Friday put “Jedi” in only second place. The top spot was retained by Chinese comedy “The Ex-File: The Return of the Exes” in its second week.

Data from China Box Office showed “Jedi” earning $7 million (RMB50.1 million) by 7 p.m. local time. Including midnight screenings and previews, its running total was $8.28 million. That gave it a market share of 27%.

With a marginally smaller screen count, “The Ex-File” enjoyed $15.7 million (RMB102 million) and a 58% share of the box office by 7 p.m. Its cumulative score after eight days stands at $129 million (RMB838 million).

The “Star Wars” franchise has never held the same grip on Chinese audiences as in North America and other countries. The first six films did not all get theatrical releases in China, and in some cases only years later, though all have played multiple times on Chinese television. In an attempt to create buzz and help Chinese audiences with the back story, the first six episodes were played at the Shanghai film festival two years ago.

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Disney pulled out all the stops to get “The Force Awakens” to $124 million in January 2016. The figure at the time was considered something of a disappointment, though 2016 saw a major slowdown in the growth of the Chinese box office and opinions had to be revised when the film took 13th place for the year.

“Rogue One,” which featured two Chinese stars Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen in significant roles, earned $69.5 million last year.